Our View: Yes on 5B to support local schools
Eagle County voters have a track record of supporting local students and educators and Issue 5B is an easy choice on this year’s ballot. For one, it’s not a new tax or a tax increase — just an extension to the mill levy override that voters approved in 2016.
And, in the midst of a pandemic that has created deeper shortfalls in state-level public education funding, the need for that extension has never been more acute.
Passage of 5B ensures our local district won’t go backward after all the progress it has made since the Great Recession of the late 2000s led to deep cuts in the state budget that led to a reduction of teachers, staff, and services in local schools. The district still has yet to get back to pre-recession staffing levels.
Eagle County Schools already went through the painful exercise of cutting its annual operating budget by 10% over the summer. That’s significant belt-tightening when around 85% of the district’s operating costs go to paying salaries and benefits for the 1,000 or so residents it employs as the county’s second-largest employer. The two other biggest line items on the budget are supplies and classroom tools.
The mill levy override isn’t set to expire until Dec. 31, 2023, but given that murky future outlook at the state level, the district is getting out front and asking voters to provide some financial stability for the long-term. There’s also the moving target of student enrollment in a transient community that’s being notably reshaped by those who can’t afford to stay and those who are moving here to escape big metro areas. Eagle County and other mountain resort communities with seasonal workforces have historically struggled with shifting enrollment counts since state funding is done by a per-pupil calculation.
Our educators and school workers are essential, frontline workers in this pandemic. The local district has successfully navigated reopening schools to in-person learning while so many other districts around the state started the school year with remote learning or have struggled to keep classrooms open. Every day educators and staffers are stepping up to give our kids what they desperately need in these chaotic times: A sense of normalcy and a quality education.
There’s nothing that can replace the experience of students being engaged, in a classroom, learning with their peers.
That’s why we’re asking Eagle County voters to step up for those teachers, administrators, bus drivers, lunchroom workers and other school workers by passing 5B on this year’s ballot.
The Vail Daily Editorial Board is Publisher Mark Wurzer, Editor Nate Peterson, Assistant Editor Ross Leonhart, Digital Engagement Editor Sean Naylor, Business Editor Scott Miller, Eagle Valley Enterprise Editor Pam Boyd and Advertising Director Holli Snyder.
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