Members of the Montezuma-Cortez school district ballot issue committee met Tuesday to plan an outreach strategy for the upcoming election.
On Aug. 22, the Re-1 district school board voted to put a property tax increase on the November ballot to increase funding for teacher salaries, technology and other local education needs.
At Tuesday’s meeting, district staff met with representatives of the Colorado Education Association and several local schools to decide how best to inform the community about the issue.
As a first step, the group agreed to hold an informational meeting in September with several agencies that could be affected by a tax increase.
Attendees brainstormed several ways community allies could get their message out, including creating yard signs and fliers, as well as digital outreach on social media. The meeting was held in the special events room at First National Bank. Matt Keefauver, assistant director of Southwest Open School, said he wanted to hold an informational meeting in the same room with as many people as possible. He suggested inviting a long list of people from local banks, the Cortez City Council, educational organizations like the Montelores Early Childhood Council, political organizations and businesses like Kinder Morgan, among others.
“After Labor Day at some point, I would like to just have this room packed, and really hit the ground running,” Keefauver said.
He asked for advice from Haley Leonard Saunders, public relations director for Southwest Health System, since she has experience informing the community about the Southwest Memorial Hospital expansion.
“I’d say one-on-one and town halls and actually talking to people (was most effective),” she said.
Keefauver said one of his goals is to find local organizations that are willing to reach out on the school district’s behalf, since school staff can’t campaign for the ballot issue directly.
The school district is working on a swift timeline. The ballot question’s wording must be approved by the Montezuma County Clerk’s Office by Sept. 8, and the Colorado Secretary of State must then approve it for the Nov. 7 election. Ballots will be mailed to voters starting in mid-October.
With that in mind, Keefauver and the rest of the committee agreed to hold an informational meeting on Sept. 12, most likely at First National Bank.
By then, Keefauver said he hopes to have sample fact sheets ready, along with a detailed presentation on the ballot issue.
School board members estimated the proposed tax would raise about $2.7 million in 2018. The funds could be used to raise teacher salaries, buy new equipment and replace old school buses, according to Re-1 Superintendent Lori Haukeness.
This article was reposted on Aug. 30 to correct Matt Keefauver’s job title.