AURORA | The Aurora Public Schools District will ask voters for a $15 million property tax increase for operating expenses this fall, an issue that would add about $8 in monthly property taxes for a median Aurora home.
According to APS officials, the mill levy override spelled out in issue 3C on this year’s ballot would seek to recover “a small portion of state funding cuts” from the past four years, recisions that have added up to about $70 million since 2009. If approved, the levy would add about $5.71 per month in property taxes for every $100,000 of actual home value. The money would go toward operating expenses in the school district, costs that include academic programs and technology improvements.
“This is a must-have project here in Aurora,” said John Britz, campaign manager for Aurora Citizens for Excellent Schools in September. “This is $15 million … just to take care of a portion of the $70 million worth of cuts.”
According to district officials, the mill levy override would bring property tax levels similar to 2009, following decreases in property values in the district. APS Superintendent John Barry has frequently cited the toll of steady rounds of budget cuts from the state, reductions that have hit everything from classroom technology to the number of classes an APS high school student can take in one semester. That comes as the district has seen a rise in enrollment of about 17 percent in the past five years.
“This hinders our ability to be globally competitive in this world,” Barry said. “I’m not a big tax guy, but I am a competitor … The facts are dire.”
The district conducted polls in the community before finalizing the $15 million total, and campaign officials say the number reflects average residents in APS said was a reasonable request. Even so, some board members hesitated in approving the ballot issue and raised a familiar argument for funding reform at the state level.
“I believe personally that this is a double-edged sword in terms of what we do moving forward … I do believe our community is impacted by the decision,” said APS Board member and Treasurer Dan Jorgensen before voting on the question earlier this year. “We’re pulling money out of our local economy, which further damages what’s going on with our families … It’s not an easy decision.
“That being said, our students need the money and the district needs the money,” Jorgensen added.
In 2008, the district passed a $14.7 million mill levy. In the past four years, that money has gone toward programs like Fifth Block, an initiative that provides extra weeks of summer instruction for students across the district. The money also paid for the expansion of programs like International Baccalaureate and Academic and Career Pathways.
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