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Big win for 27J, tough loss for Douglas County in school tax votes

Voters approved about two-thirds of the 22 school district tax measures around Colorado on Tuesday, according to by-election results, with a particularly significant victory in Brighton-based District 27J, where seven previous windmill tax waivers have failed. In part, the district’s successful waiver measure will fund teacher salary increases — possibly as much as 7.5 percent.

“I’m so excited for our more than 2,000 staff,” Superintendent Chris Fiedler said on Tuesday night as he celebrated with supporters at a Brighton brewery. “It will be a vote of confidence for them.”

Meanwhile, in the county district of Douglas, home to 64,000 students, where a conservative majority on the board expelled the superintendent Last February, leading to months of unrest, voters likely rejected two tax measures. One, 5A, a factory tax waiver that would fund 9% salary increases for teachers, was down 1.3 percentage points Wednesday afternoon with a few uncounted votes. The other, 5B, a $450 million bond issue that lost by a much larger margin, would have paid for new schools and building upgrades.

Sarah Mesmer, acting president of the district’s teachers’ union, called the losses disappointing, saying they will hurt the district’s ability to attract and retain teachers.

“I know there are teachers who will leave because their pay in neighboring districts is better,” she said. “We are losing teachers in Littleton. We are losing teachers in Cherry Creek, and that is unfortunate.

Conservative opponents of the tax measures have circulated false claims that new funds would support “reawakened” instructionwhile some observers have said divisions within the school board and the recent leadership change likely hurt voter support for the measures.

“A community needs to feel that there’s a plan, that there’s stability, that it’s been well thought out,” said Tracie Rainey, executive director of the Colorado School Finance Project.

In Douglas County, “I think a lot of things have been disrupted,” she said, noting that the district has had three superintendents in three years.

Despite the double loss in Douglas County, it was a good year for school district voting metrics overall, according to unofficial results counted by the Colorado School Finance Project. Fifteen measures passed noon Wednesday, including in Boulder Valley, Greeley-Evans, Mapleton and Delta County in western Colorado, although some votes are still being counted.

The most of ballot measures will pay for capital projects such as the construction of schools or the retrofitting of buildings. A handful, including in District 27J and Mapleton, will fund recurring expenses such as salary increases for staff.

In 27J, the repeal of the 5B factory tax was properly passed, marking the first time in 22 years that district voters approved such a measure. (Last year, the district narrowly passed a bond issue.)

In addition to salary increases, the factory tax waiver will pay for armed security guards in elementary schools in the district and additional staff and resources to expand vocational and technical education programs in secondary schools in the district. .

Fiedler said the district decided to add the provision for new security personnel after a gunman killed 19 children and two adults at an elementary school in Uvalde, Texas last spring.

“It certainly brought some voters to a yes who may not have been there before,” he said.

In Windsor-based Weld District RE-4, its 4B bond measure and 4C factory levy waiver appeared to pass comfortably mid-afternoon Wednesday with around 55% of the vote, but officials from the district were reluctant to declare victory as some votes were still being counted. in Weld County.

There is “no final appeal,” a district spokeswoman said.

Rainey said the pass rate for school ballot measures this year was fairly consistent with previous years, although the number of school districts with ballot measures was lower than normal. This year, there were 22 measures, against 30 last year and 28 the previous year.

She said the pandemic limits the ways school districts can engage their communities to gather feedback when considering such measures.

“I predict that within a year or two you’ll start to see that pent-up demand for districts that want to go [for a ballot issue],” she says.

Besides Douglas County, five other districts faced tax losses Tuesday, including neighboring Lewis-Palmer, and four rural districts: Bennett, Ellicott, Kiowa and Platte Canyon.

Ann Schimke is a senior reporter at Chalkbeat, covering early childhood issues and early literacy. Contact Ann at [email protected]



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