Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Ritter revolutionizes Colorado School Finance

Governor touts legislation as good government that avoids fiscal train wreck

Surrounded by dozens of lawmakers, supporters and children, Gov. Bill Ritter today signed the School Finance Act into law, praising it as good-government legislation that avoids a fiscal calamity that would have struck in 2011.

“In November, we were elected by the voters of this state to solve problems, to bring pragmatic solutions to the very real challenges facing Colorado,” Gov. Ritter said during the signing ceremony on the West Steps of the state Capitol. “Today, we are fixing a big problem.

“I’m signing Senate Bill 199 here at the Capitol because it represents good government. It’s called the School Finance Act, but it’s about so much more: higher education, health care, human services, economic-development and other important services. This law will make a difference in the lives of Coloradans for years to come.”

Ritter, citing widespread bi-partisan support for the Act from around Colorado, was joined at today’s ceremony by state Treasurer Cary Kennedy; Nancy McCallin, president of the Colorado Community College System; and Harry Lewis, a longtime civic leader who currently heads his own investment firm and serves on the Colorado Forum and Colorado Economic Futures boards.

“This is a historic moment because the new School Finance Act that Gov. Ritter is signing today is landmark legislation,” Treasurer Kennedy said. “It ensures that improving funding for education does not result in dramatic reductions in Colorado’s other critical priorities.”

The Act increases total funding for education in Colorado by $310 million, a 6.6 percent increase. An amendment to the Act will keep the State Education Fund from becoming insolvent in 2011 as projections called for. Other benefits of the Act:

· Allows popular votes in 175 of 178 school districts around Colorado to take effect, enabling these districts to retain revenues over their TABOR limits.

· Begins to address the growing inequities between the state share of K-12 education funding and the local share. Twenty years ago, local districts picked up 60 percent of total costs. Today, the state pays about 65 percent. In 10 years, it will be nearly 75 percent. Increased state funding means a loss of local control.

· Keeps $42 million in the State Education Fund in FY07/08 that otherwise would have been spent by stabilizing the local share of K-12 funding. Without the stabilization, the General Fund would continue to be forced to back fill the Ed Fund. In FY11/12 and FY12/13, that would have amounted to $386 million from the General Fund.

· Provides about $6 million to get 2,000 low-income children currently on waiting lists into pre-school.

· Lowers property tax rates in 34 school districts to 27 mills ($27 per $1,000 of assessed valuation), allowing those districts to keep $12 million in the first year. This begins to address the wide gulf in school property tax rates across Colorado. In 1994, all districts paid the same rate. Today some districts’ rates are more than 20 times those of other districts. The 34 districts that will experience lower mill rates are:

Adams 12 Five Star Buffalo
Westminster Brush
Cherry Creek Weldon
Deer Trail Fowler
Springfield Cheraw
Vilas Holyoke
Sanford Granada
Sierra Grande Pueblo City
Calhan Pueblo Rural
Cheyenne Mountain Sargent
Ellicott Moffat
Edison Center
Arriba-Flagler Julesburg
Stratton Otis
Poudre Lone Star
Karval Windsor
Frenchman Greeley

· Raises floor funding/minimum per-pupil funding for 11 school districts by $6.4 million in FY07/08:

Widefield ($485,000) Cheyenne Mountain ($160,000)
Falcon ($227,000) Canon City ($551,000)
Poudre ($242,000) Thompson ($167,000)
Mesa Valley ($2.9 million) Moffat ($274,000)
Pueblo Rural ($810,000) Windsor ($514,000)
Johnstown ($30,000)

School Finance Act supporters include:

Newspaper Editorials
Denver Post
Grand Junction Daily Sentinel
Pueblo Chieftain
Greeley Tribune
Durango Herald
Boulder Daily Camera

Business Community
Colorado Forum
Colorado Succeeds
Economic Development Council of Colorado

Human Services
Colorado Association of Homes & Services for the Aging
Colorado Behavioral Healthcare Council
Homecare Association of Colorado
Mental Health Association of Colorado
Colorado Counties Incorporated
Colorado Alliance for Retired Americans

Medical Community
Children’s Hospital
Colorado Academy of Family Physicians
Colorado Association for Family and Children’s Agencies
Colorado Association of Durable Medical Equipment Suppliers
Colorado Chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics
Colorado Immunization Coalition
Colorado Hospital Association
Colorado Medical Society
Colorado Public Health Association
Denver Health

Education Associations
Alliance for Quality Teaching
Coalition for a Thorough & Uniform Colorado Public Education System
Colorado Association of School Boards
Colorado Association of School Executives
Colorado Boards of Cooperative Educational Services
Colorado Education Association
Colorado PTAs
Colorado School Counselor Association
El Paso Education Alliance
Great Education Colorado

Higher Education
Colorado State University
Community College System
Fort Lewis College
Mesa State College
Metropolitan State College of Denver
University of Colorado
University of Northern Colorado
University of Colorado Student Union
Colorado State Student Association
Daniel Ritchie

School Districts
Academy 20
Colorado Springs School District 11
Canon City
Cherry Creek Public Schools
Fountain-Fort Carson
Greeley-Evans School District 6
Littleton Public Schools
Mesa Valley School District 51
Poudre School District
Pueblo School District 60
Thompson School District R2-J
Widefield School District
Windsor School District

American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees
Bell Policy Institute
Colorado Children’s Campaign
Pitkin County Board of Commissioners
Service Employees International Union/SEIU