School Funding Initiative Is Delayed, Pending Signature Review
by William Woody
Aug 27, 2013 | 1625 views | 0 0 comments | 32 32 recommendations | email to a friend | print

Secretary of State's Office Has Until Sept. 4 to Review Petitions

WESTERN SLOPE — Initiative 22, the drive to raise state income taxes and flush Colorado’s school finance system with new cash, was stalled late last week when Colorado Secretary of State Scott Gessler announced his office "will require a line-by-line review of signatures" on petitions to determine whether the measure qualifies for the November ballot.

On Aug. 5, members of the Colorado Commits to Kids organization delivered 165,706 signatures, twice what was needed, to Gessler's office to put Initiative 22, known as "Funding for public schools,” a component of Senate Bill 213, on the fall ballot.

In a news release this week, the Gessler’s  office said out of a five percent random sample, or 8,286 signatures, only 4,645 were valid and the other 3,641 were invalid.

Supporters needed a verification rate of 110 percent of the required 86,105 valid signatures to place the initiative directly on the ballot and avoid a line-by-line review. The sample rate announced last week was 107.88 percent.

The Secretary of State’s office said a projected number of valid signatures was 92,892, more than is needed to qualify.

"The office immediately began verifying a random sample of the signatures as set forth in the state statute. Section 1-40-116(4), C.R.S. requires the verification of each signature filed if the random sample shows the number of valid signatures falls between 90 percent and 110 percent of the 86,105 signatures needed," the release stated.

Initiative 22 would change the state's current income tax rate of 4.63 percent into a two-tiered system, with all taxpayers paying 5 percent on the first $75,000 of income, and 5.9 percent on income beyond $75,000.

Gessler’s office has until Sept. 4 to complete its review. 

SB213, passed through the Democrat-controlled House of Representatives by a 37-28 party-line vote on April 29, will affect all of Colorado's 178 school districts.

Initiative 22 would create a new formula to determine state and local funding shares, taking into account differences in median income, property values, free and reduced lunch programs and the number of at-risk students within districts. Money for special education would also be channeled into the districts which mainly pay for those programs.

Montrose County School District RE-1J Superintendent Mark MacHale estimated RE-1J will receive about $4.2 million if the measure passes in November, nearly half the amount the district has cut in recent years.

The money would go to fund full-day kindergarten and half-day preschool, as well as at-risk students and English-language learners. All new revenue generated would be placed in a new state Education Achievement Fund, earmarked for preschool and K-12 students.

If Initiative 22 fails in November, it would not invalidate the existence of SB213. The bill, now law, can only be implemented if funding is raised.

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