School District 51 considers TABOR waiver for November ballot

As Mesa County School District 51 mulls over a budget proposal that calls for cutting more than 180 full-time equivalent jobs by August, the district is also weighing the pros and cons of asking county voters to allow the district to retain revenues above the limits set by the state’s Taxpayers’ Bill of Rights—or TABOR—law.

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 in early June.

“We have to be creative,” said Schultz. “We have to be entrepreneurial just like businesses do.”

Schultz has asked the District 51 Board of Education to approve a budget for the 2011-12 school year which reduces spending by more than $13 million compared to spending 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 3 days. The reduction cuts teacher pay by about 1.5 percent. Administrators face the same percentage cut due to reduced number of days in the school year.

Schultz and other school officials contend that they’ve gone beyond cutting any “fat” from the budget and are now going after the “bone.” Schultz cites the elimination of 116 part-time reading instructors as one particularly difficult part of his proposal to the school board. The board is scheduled to vote on the final budget June 21.

Colorado’s TABOR amendment restricts increases in 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 inflation is in that area, the greater the percentage increase allowed for government-funded entities. Increase in population has a similar effect. A so-called TABOR waiver would allow the district to keep any revenues that are above the allowable increases, assuming the population and inflation increase in coming years.