The average residential property owner in Montezuma County paid 55 percent less to fund public education last year than in 1995.
Last week, Montezuma-Cortez Re-1 Superintendent Alex Carter called a workshop with board members to discuss district finances. He presented an analysis by Rudy Andras, an economist with RBC Capital Markets in Denver, in an attempt to demonstrate that residents aren’t overtaxed.
According to Andras, local homeowners paid an average of $548 annually to fund public education in 1995. A decade later, the average property owner paid $277 in annual taxes. Since 2005, the average annual tax bill in Montezuma County has ranged from a low of $204 in 2007 and to a high of $293 in 2013. This school year, the average property tax is projected to decrease to $251.
A mill levy argument
Carter also argued that a local mill levy override would help with recruiting and retaining quality teachers.
Recent data from the Colorado School Finance Project revealed that Colorado teachers received more than $7,000 less than the national average in 2013-14.
Carter added that districts in Wyoming, for example, see 50 or more applicants for one position. Durango schools, he said, offer higher wages and receive 20 or more applicants per teacher position.
“Some positions, we get one applicant,” he said.
Saying the only way to resolve the dilemma was to increase teacher wages, Carter pointed out that from Dove Creek to Silverton to Ignacio, the Re-1 district was the only district in Southwest Colorado that hasn’t obtained local revenues to supplement state funding.
“With no mill levy override, we are going backwards,” he said. “Be absolutely clear, we cannot compete. There’s no way.”
According to the Colorado School Finance Project, 65 school districts don’t receive funding from mill levy overrides. Statewide, mill levy override funding increased by more than $125 million between 2008 and 2013.
Last year, nearly 1 in 5 Re-1 teachers opted not to return. Four years ago, more than 1 in 4 teachers left the district.