Eagle County Schools tax near the max | VailDaily.com

Eagle County Schools tax near the max

EAGLE – The property tax increase the school board wants would put the school district close to its taxing capacity.

Under Colorado’s school finance law, the Eagle County school district can ask local voters to tax themselves up to 25 percent above the funding the state provides for instructing kids in classrooms.

The Eagle County school district’s numbers work like this:

• The school district can ask for up to $14.861 million more each year, which is 25 percent of the state’s funding level.

• Local taxpayers are already paying $8.0 million above state funding levels each year, stemming from tax increases already in place, $2.2 million in 1998 and $3.1 million in 2002, and another $2.7 was tacked on before 1994.

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• That leaves the local school district $6.8 million in remaining tax capacity.

• The $6 million permanent property tax increase the school board is asking voters to approve would cover all but $800,000 of that.

The school board is asking voters for a permanent property tax increase by up to $6 million – $1,000 per kid, up to 6,000 kids.

Eagle County schools are at least in a position to ask voters for more money. Many of Colorado’s 178 school districts are not.

“Many school district are not below that taxing level. They’re maxed out,” said Phil Onofrio, the Eagle County school district’s CFO.

Across Colorado, 20 school districts are asking voters for tax increases.

Many school district went for their tax increases last year, including Aspen and Summit County, which both passed.

Numbers matter because Colorado’s schools are funded on a per-pupil basis, under Colorado’s 1994 Public School Finance Act.

So, if you take the Eagle County school district’s 5,823 kids and multiply it by the district’s 2011-2012 per-pupil funding of $6,741, that’s $32,252,843 in state funding to be spent on instructing kids in classrooms.

The rest of the school district’s $114 million budget is spent on line items like paying off voter-approved bond debt (this year’s payment is $25.5 million).

In total, taxpayers will spend $11,865 per pupil when everything is added up, say opponents of a proposed tax increase. That number includes the $235,168,206 in voter-approved bond debt and interest, money spent to build and renovate schools. That $11,865 per-pupil amount is the number of students in Eagle County schools, 5,823 over 17 schools, adding all revenue including student instruction, capital and debt service.

The National Center for Education Statistics puts the Eagle County school district’s per-pupil instruction spending is $9,123 per pupil, calculated by taking the school district’s general fund budget ($52,517,269) and dividing it by 5,700 students.

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

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