Eagle County School Board backs state school tax proposal

Initiative 22

Shall state taxes be increased by $950,100,000 annually in the first full fiscal year and by such amounts as are raised thereafter by amendments to the Colorado Constitution and the Colorado revised statutes concerning funding for preschool through 12th-grade public education, and, in connection therewith, increasing the current state income tax rate on individuals, estates and trusts, and imposing an additional rate so higher amounts of income are taxed at higher rates; requiring the resulting increases in tax revenues be spent only for improvements to preschool through 12th-grade public education; allowing all tax revenues attributable to this measure to be collected and spent without future voter approval; requiring at least 43 percent of state sales, excise and income tax revenues be deposited in the State Education Fund; and repealing certain existing public education funding requirements?

EAGLE — The local school board voted unanimously to support an income tax increase that would raise an additional $950 million to fund Colorado’s public schools.

“It’s our best opportunity to take a step forward,” said Tessa Kirchner, school board member. “We value education, but we’ve gotten off track a little bit. This won’t solve all the problems, but it’s a step in the right direction.”

By adopting their resolution, school board members are allowed to speak publicly about the tax increase.

“In the formula, Eagle County does OK. We end up with slightly more money for our children,” said Jeanne McQueeney, school board president.

According to the state’s report, county schools would get $4,358,186. That’s about half the amount lost in budget cuts during the recession, said Phil Onofrio, chief financial officer for Eagle County School District.

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“If the state had been able to fund Amendment 23, we would be getting $8,145,220 more per year than we are currently getting,” Onofrio said.

What it costs

The two-tiered tax increase would cost someone with an annual state taxable income of $45,000 an additional $166.50 a year. People with an annual state taxable income of $100,000 would pay an extra $595.

Right now, Colorado’s income tax rate is 4.63 percent for everyone, regardless of income.

Initiative 22 asks for a two-tiered tax rate:

A 5 percent flat rate for income up to $75,000 annually.

A 5.9 percent rate for all earnings above $75,000.

The Colorado Education Association, the state’s largest teachers union, had contributed $250,000 to the campaign, nearly 75 percent of the $342,300 that Colorado Commits to Kids had spent on its campaign, according to its campaign disclosure July 3.

What it funds

State Sen. Mike Johnston, a Denver Democrat and Vail native, spent two years hammering out the school finance legislation.

During last spring’s state legislative session, lawmakers passed Senate Bill 213 to overhaul Colorado’s school finance system.

The package requires a minimum level of per-pupil funding for all of Colorado’s 168 school districts and requires the money go to the pupils’ schools. The package also funnels more money to disadvantaged districts and would fund full-day kindergarten and increase support for at-risk students.

The ballot measure would also repeal a section in Amendment 23 that requires school funding to increase by the annual rate of inflation. Instead, a minimum of 43 percent of the state’s tax revenue would be set aside for K-12 schools.

However, all those plans will die from lack of funding unless Colorado voters approve the proposed income tax increase.

According to the Colorado Legislative Council, those plans will actually cost $1.12 billion. Lawmakers would have to figure out how to fund the rest during the 2014 state legislative session.

Staff Writer Randy Wyrick can be reached at 970-748-2935 and rwyrick@vail

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