Cortez school board will not ask for mill levy increase

Thursday, Aug. 23, 2018 6:32 PM
Montezuma-Cortez School District RE-1 hopes Amendment 73 will pass and help raise teachers’ salaries, improve students’ technology needs and replace an aging bus fleet.

The Montezuma-Cortez Board of Education has decided against asking voters for a mill levy increase in November.

The unanimous vote was made at Tuesday’s regular meeting after a discussion concluded that the timing was not ideal to ask for the tax increase proposal again.

In 2017, voters rejected the district’s request to raise the property tax, which would have raised about $2.7 million per year and would have been used to increase teacher salaries, improve school technology and replace an aging bus fleet.

The ballot measure lost, with 55 percent against it and 45 percent for it.

The district had considered a campaign to persuade voters to pass the measure in November but ran out of time.

“I don’t feel it can pass,” said board member Sherri Wright.

Board members questioned whether the tax would exhaust voters’ generosity if put on the ballot along with the Montezuma County Board of Commissioners’ proposal for a sales tax.

Recent layoffs at Southwest Memorial Hospital and the economic hardship from the drought also were cited as reasons a school tax increase might not pass.

“There is not enough time” to campaign for a tax increase, said board member Jack Schuenemeyer, who added that the issue of making teachers’ salaries more competitive was still a priority.

The Board of Education is hanging its hopes on Amendment 73, a statewide ballot question that would raise additional revenue for Colorado schools.

The Montezuma-Cortez district is estimated to receive about $4.3 million per year in additional funds if the measure passes.

In an Aug. 22 letter to stakeholders, school officials said that if Amendment 73 did pass, the district’s goals for the revenue would still be to raise teacher salaries to a more competitive level in Southwest Colorado, provide education technology for students, keep the bus system up to date and add school resource officers to improve security districtwide.

“Districts are being asked statewide to support this initiative, and we feel it is in the best interest for our community,” the letter states.