School District 51 board mulls TABOR waiver ballot measure


Steve Shultz

As the Mesa County School District 51 Board of Education mulls over a budget proposal that calls for cutting the equivalent of more than 180 full-time jobs by August, the board also is weighing the pros and cons of asking county voters to allow the district to retain tax revenues above state constitutional limits.

District 51 Superintendent Steve Schultz shared the potential plan to place such a measure on this year’s ballot during a meeting with the Business Times. “We have to be creative,” Schultz said. “We have to be entrepreneurial just like businesses do.”

The Taxpayer Bill of Rights, or TABOR, restricts increases in government tax collections and spending to a formula that factors in population growth and the increase in the consumer price index for the Denver-Boulder area. The greater the increases in population and inflation, the greater the percentage increase allowed for government entities.

A TABOR waiver would allow District 51 to keep and spend revenues above the allowable increases.

Schultz has asked the District 51 Board of Education to approve a budget for the 2011-12 school year that reduces spending by more than $13 million compared to the budget for the recently concluded school year. The plan calls for reducing the staff by the equivalent of 186 full-time positions and reducing the school year by three days. The reduction cuts teacher pay about 1.5 percent. Administrators face the same percentage cut due to the reduced number of days in the school year.

Schultz and other school officials contend they’ve gone beyond cutting any fat from the budget and are now going into bone. Schultz cited the elimination of 116 part-time reading instructors as one particularly difficult part of his proposal to the school board.