Cherry Creek schools asking voters for tax hike to fund operations, $250M in new schools and mega-career center

279

AURORA | Cherry Creek School District board members unanimously agreed Monday night, April 11, to ask district voters to raise property taxes across the district to fund new schools, a state-of-the art career and technical center, and to raise operating cash to hold down class sizes and pay for a variety of programs.

School officials estimate the district would need about $250 million from bond sales to cover the cost of new construction and remodeling needs. Officials estimate the district would need to raise taxes about $33 million a year for debt service on the bonds. In addition, school officials are asking residents to increase property taxes across the district $23.9 million a year for operating expenses. Both tax hikes would be funded by increases in commercial and residential property taxes.

“This is one of the most difficult and yet impactful decisions a school board can make,” CCSD Superintendent Dr. Harry Bull said at the school board meeting. “Tonight’s decision is about the future of our children … and the future of all children who will be in Cherry Creek schools.”

Cherry Creek budgeting officials say the school district is compelled to ask for a mill-levy override to raise operating cash because the district has been underfunded by state equalization funding programs for years. That’s built pressure on increasing class size and squeezing operating priorities, officials said.

“In this time of ever diminishing education resources from the State of Colorado, it becomes ever more important for us to continue to look out for ourselves,”CCSD School Board President Randy Perlis said in a statement. “The future looks very bright and promising for the district, however not with the gloomy budget projections facing us. There is a desperate need to increase our budget resources locally through this bond and budget election.”

Chief Financial Officer Guy Bellville said last month that Cherry Creek schools have been “underfunded” by $50 million annually from the state, accumulating $306 million withheld since 2008.

School district officials last month estimated the two tax hikes would increase taxes on a house valued at $350,o00 about $8 a month.

In December, district officials certified this year’s bond redemption fund mill levy rate at 49.703 mills, which is a decrease of about seven mills from the 2014-15 fiscal year. Sharp increases in assessed property values had significant impacts on the new rates, according to district officials. However, because CCSD is one of just a few districts in the state not to have ‘de-Bruced’ or nixed revenue limits on property taxes in recent years, higher home values don’t necessarily equate to more money for that district, according to Cherry Creek schools Communications Director Tustin Amole.

For months, Bull has backed a centralized career and innovation education center. Such a center would enable the district to provide state-of-the art job training in a wide range of fields, school officials say. Bull and other school officials have studied national and international programs they want to model the new center after.

The program would include components and facilities in local schools as well, according to Amole.

The district’s five-year bond and budget plan also calls for a new elementary and middle school, according to a CCSD news release. However, it is still unclear where the district would construct the new facilities.