Eagle County school tax increase fails | VailDaily.com

Eagle County school tax increase fails

CVR Election Ballot JM 11-1-11

EAGLE, Colorado – Voters in Eagle County and across most of Colorado were in no mood to raise their taxes, with both local and statewide education tax increases defeated.

Locally, Ballot Question 3B was defeated. You have to go back to the early 1990s for the last time Eagle County voters defeated a school tax question.

The measure would have increased property taxes by up to $6 million a year permanently, $1,000 per student for up to 6,000 students.

Proposition 103, a statewide education tax measure, lost by an almost 2-1 margin.

Tuesday’s results are still unofficial, Simonton.

After weeks of discussion through the spring and summer, the school board decided to put the 3B on the ballot, saying they should at least give voters the opportunity to decide the issue.

The measure would have increased sales taxes and income taxes for five years, to help offset the cuts state lawmakers have had to make in funding education and everything else in the past two years.

Voters’ sentiments were split along the battle lines drawn during the campaign.

“I voted ‘no’ because I don’t believe the schools are being held accountable for the money they’re already receiving,” said a man dropping his ballot off at the Avon Center Tuesday afternoon.

Moments later, a woman countered that with her “yes” vote, saying “I just think it’s important.”

The school district says its money woes stem from cuts in state funding. Schools across the state funded on a per-pupil basis, and for the first time in memory that amount dropped.

The school district says it has shed $9 million and 100 jobs in the last two years to cover the funding cuts.

The school district has said it will face around $4 million in cuts this year when further cuts in state funding hit.

Rebecca Ruck and her husband voted for it.

“We have kids. We’re homeowners in Minturn and it was just a no brainer for my husband and I,” Rebecca said.

Opponents say the school district could cut spending further, pointing to things like the money the school district spends on food for various events.

One man outside the Avon Center polling station said he voted yes, “because it’s an investment in education,” and added that the school district is managing money well.

Voter turnout ran at around 45 percent, which Eagle Clerk and Recorder Teak Simonton said was “pretty good,” but was still low.

Among those who were slow to get to the polls were school district employees. By last Friday, only 35 percent had voted, according to the committee pushing 3B.

The school district’s communications office sent out two emails Friday reminding the staff that election day was only days away.

Joe Romero of Avon works for the school district and he did his part to pass 3B.

“We voted yes for the future of the kids; to make sure we keep the staff that we’ve got – that’s the most important part that we voted for,” Romero said.

While some voters took dead aim at the school board, calling for greater accountability, all five of the school board members up for re-election ran unopposed.

Dave Niewoonder teaches government classes at Battle Mountain High School. While he acknowledged that the tax increase proposals were “tough choices for everyone,” he said he was disappointed that there were five school board seats up for election, none of which had a contested race.

While acknowledging the support the schools receive from parents, Niewoonder said “It speaks volumes that we can’t find people to serve on the school board.”

Lauren Glendenning contributed to this report

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

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