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August 22, 2011
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Eagle County Schools set to ask for tax increase

EAGLE, Colorado - Taxpayers will decide whether to give the school district the tax increase it wants, if the school board votes Wednesday to put it on the November ballot.

The school board will decide whether to ask Eagle County voters to raise their property taxes by $6 million. The ballot question and resolution to put it before the voters are part of Wednesday's school board agenda.

The school board will talk about it during a work session beginning at 4:30 p.m. The public can add more input beginning with the 6 p.m. regular session.

The vote will end months of school board discussions about shrinking budgets and job cuts. It would begin a campaign designed to convince voters that the school district needs the money, and why.

"The board has determined that the interest of the district and the public interest and necessity demand and require that the district seek voter approval for a tax increase," the motion to put the tax increase question on the ballot says.

The district's total budget this year is $114,932,316.

Cuts in state funding have forced the local school district to cut $9 million and 100 jobs in the last two years, the district says. The school district could be looking at another $4.5 million in state budget cuts, according to the state's early budget projections.

Some of those job cuts start with what district officials are calling "right sizing."

The number of students has dwindled slightly in the last few years, as the local economy continues to slump.

Right now, the school district employs 550 teachers. Student numbers will support about two dozen fewer than that, says Brian Childress, Eagle County school district human resources director.

The schools had around 5,019 students in 19 schools, according to district's spring head count. They'll know this year's student numbers when kids show up for school next week.

Dr. Sandra Smyser, school district superintendent, agreed that every family in Eagle County is tightening its belt, and that the school district has been doing the same - and would continue cutting jobs and spending if voters reject their proposed tax increase.

"There's a cost to tighten our belt," Smyser told the school board.

A poll of likely voters in this November's mail-ballot election found support running at 40 percent. It should be at 58 percent to be confident of passing, says the polling company.

However, that poll did not include any of the school district's 900 employees.

The local school district's tax increase would likely appear on the same ballot as state Sen. Rollie Heath's statewide tax increase. The Boulder Democrat wants to raise sales taxes and income taxes for five years, and spend the money on education.

Heath handed the Colorado Secretary of State's office 145,000 signatures earlier this month. He needs the valid signatures of 86,105 registered Colorado voters to make the November ballot.

Under Colorado's TABOR Amendment, governments need voter approval to raise taxes.

Staff Writer Randy Wyrick can be reached at 970-748-2935 or rwyrick@vaildaily.com.


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The VailDaily Updated Aug 22, 2011 11:14PM Published Aug 22, 2011 11:13PM Copyright 2011 The VailDaily. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.