Vail Daily editorial: ‘Yes’ on school taxes | VailDaily.com

Vail Daily editorial: ‘Yes’ on school taxes

the Vail Daily Editorial Board

Local special districts have already asked voters for a lot this year. The valley's ambulance district and two biggest fire districts in May asked for, and received, tax increases.

Those increases were worthwhile, and will allow those districts to both maintain and improve their services.

Eagle County Schools this fall has two more worthwhile proposals, ballot issues 3A and 3B.

Taken together, the ballot issues add up to a significant request — about $200 per year on a home with a county valuation of $500,000. That will be money well spent, on both personnel and facilities.

Much of the money raised from these taxes will come from our second-home owners, making this property tax request a better deal for full-time residents.

The money from this package is needed because of an intentional quirk in the Taxpayers Bill of Rights, a 1992 amendment to the Colorado Constitution. That amendment restricts taxing and spending at both the state and local levels. The quirk is that when revenues fall — as property tax collections did in the wake of the nation's economic slump that began in 2008 — the amendment's formulas don't allow revenues to recover at the same rate property values increase. That puts local governments forever behind in the wake of a downturn, unless voters approve higher tax rates.

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These ballot issues aim to correct that imbalance.

Ballot Issue 3A is the personnel side of this year's package.

If passed, then this tax increase will: provide pay increases for teachers; update textbooks and other materials; restore programs including art, music and counseling; expand the district's preschool programs; and fund transportation upgrades.

Pay hasn't risen much in the valley in the past several years. On the other hand, the local school district is competing across the state and nation for teachers. The district's pay for teachers needs to stay competitive with other districts. Pay also needs to be sufficient to keep teachers in the district.

The local school board has pledged that no money from this tax will go to administrative pay raises. The mill levy increase will sunset in seven years, and a citizen advisory committee will oversee use of the funds.

The second part of the package, Ballot Issue 3B, is a tax increase to pay for a bond. This part of the package will help pay for a growing backlog of deferred maintenance at district facilities, from new roofs to plumbing upgrades. Bond proceeds will also be used to upgrade schools to adapt to a growing student population.

The plan includes adding classrooms at Eagle Valley High School, which is now holding some classes in spaces once used for storage. Elementary and middle schools in Eagle and Vail will benefit from extensive renovations, as will Red Canyon High School's two campuses.

District officials seem to have learned well the lessons from a 2011 tax increase proposal. That measure at the time was seen by most voters as long on cost and short on details.

District officials this time around were early in bringing residents into the discussions about this package of tax increases. The result is a request for a lot of money, to be sure. But that request is detailed, well-crafted and aimed at places where money most needs to be spent.

It's been 11 years and a massive economic downturn since Eagle County Schools last received a funding increase. The current district leadership has been forthright in its request, and has earned the opportunity to make needed improvements to our schools.