D51 property tax hike defeated, school board members "disappointed"

By: Tim Ciesco Email
By: Tim Ciesco Email

GRAND JUNCTION, Colo. (KKCO) -- Voters overwhelmingly shot down a proposed property tax hike to help fund District 51 schools.

Over the past three years, state funding cuts have forced the district to cut approximately $28 million out of its budget. Based on the Governor's 2012 budget proposal released Tuesday, district officials say they'll likely have to cut at least $5 million out of next year's budget. With no additional money coming in, board members say the next round of cuts will hurt.

It was a somber night at a District 51 watch party Tuesday as election results came in.

"I am so sad," said School Board Member Leslie Kiesler. "Excuse me for getting emotional because this is really going to affect the students and it's going to affect their education."

Kiesler says she and other board members have done their best in recent years to keep cuts as far away from the classroom as possible -- but now they're left with virtually no other options.

"Our kids are our future," said Kiesler. "All we were asking was to help support their future."

Given that most of the district's funding goes towards paying teachers' salaries and benefits, teaching positions are likely to come up in discussions about where to make cuts.

The Mesa Valley Education Association -- a local teacher's union -- says it's disappointed that more teachers could face layoffs. It also points out that enrollment numbers have not dropped significantly, meaning any teacher reduction will result in larger class sizes.

"There will be some tough decisions to make," said Jim Smyth, President of the Mesa Valley Education Association. "And I don't know that the public understands or believes what they hear."

Opponents of 3B say they do understand that the school district is facing tough times, but argue families and businesses are too -- and if they have to make the hard decisions, so should the school district.

"As you make cuts, as you change schedules, as you close buildings or whatever you need to do, that needs to be the guiding focus -- be sure you have quality teachers in the classroom and students will still be educated," said Phyllis Hunsinger, a former superintendent of the West End School District and an opponent of 3B.

State Senator Steve King, who supported 3B, says he will fight to bring more state money to District 51, which is one of the lowest funded school districts in the state. He says he's also hopeful his colleagues will fight to soften any blows K-12 funding may take.

"At a certain point, you're going to have a dysfunctional school system," said King.

District 51 says it will hold off on making any big decisions until the State Legislature reconvenes in January and they get a better idea of exactly how much they'll need to cut.

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  • by Bad Johnny on Nov 3, 2011 at 06:31 PM
    What Smith??? I thought this was no longer a right to work state...meaning there is no choice.
  • by 1 way or the other on Nov 3, 2011 at 04:02 PM
    The biggest problem, not just at the school district level, but ALL levels of taxpayer funded, quasi-governmental problems are still in the hands of the politicians and bureaucrats that caused the problems in the first place, and THEY are the only ones still pulling down their full salaries and benefits. They are also the ones determining which programs to defund to punish those stupid voters for telling the "NO!"
  • by Smith Location: Grand Junction on Nov 3, 2011 at 02:40 PM
    You all are so funny. We all have differing opinions, and living in America gives us the right to express those. We will all deal with what we are dealt regardless of who is right and who is wrong. The teachers will teach, the parents will parent, the school board will make decisions, and administrators will administrate. We all keep on keeping on. It is awesome to read this dialog and see both sides. I do know that not all teachers belong to the union. It is a teacher's choice. Just like voting no or voting yes or not voting at all. I pray understanding, listening ears and courage in these tough time for all of you. God Bless America and Dist 51!
  • by Not an RD on Nov 3, 2011 at 01:17 PM
    RD- You said, "A teacher is the resource that you are allowed to use (for free) to make sure that your child gets an education." That sounds like a statement made by a progressive! When did education become "free" as you so put it? Keep spreading the public education lies!
  • by JustAnObservation on Nov 3, 2011 at 12:40 PM
    Depending on your point of view, it is either all the admins fault, or all the teachers fault, or all the taxpayer/voters fault. The fact is, the children are not being educated to the level they once were. The teachers are the ones in the classrooms daily with the most interaction with the children. If your child excels in Math, English, or any other subject, THANK a TEACHER. If your child is behind in a lot of subjects, blame a union member that cannot hold a job without the union backing him/her. Remember, all union contracts are negotiated out of sight of the taxpayers, voters, and parents. Three overlapping groups that should be the center of any and all teachers union negotiations. THAT needs to change!
  • by me Location: here on Nov 3, 2011 at 10:48 AM
    Also i feel for the teachers, they are stuck in the middle, take the cuts and do work very hard, thank you to all teachers. for me it was not you i voted no on, it is the spending, the highly paid school board and other misuses, thank you for educating my child and i talk to my childs teacher in person weekly to help out and keep him in check. as all parents should.
  • by me Location: here on Nov 3, 2011 at 10:37 AM
    First of all the school district has land all over the valley nobody knows about. Most of it can not be developed on. It is in a flood plane, or has no right of way for utilitis. They did not look at that when they bought it. Now they can't sell it, nobody wants it. I have kids, i agree if you don't have kids why should you pay? I am willing to pay for my kids education but not out of taxes. I teach my kids to do right, study and work hard and they will succeed. The district is very wasteful with the money, these are facts on the land, not speculation.
  • by John Location: Grand Junction on Nov 2, 2011 at 10:10 PM
    James- I'm glad to see you agree with me. I have already stepped up and am funding my child's school and shouldn't have my taxes raised to subsidize your child's school. You SHOULD step up and help fund your school's shortfall while at the same time not demanding that everyone else in the valley help subsidize your school out of their pockets. Good for you.
  • by John Location: Grand Junction on Nov 2, 2011 at 09:58 PM
    Carrie- "Why do you want to blame teachers and schools for all the problems?"...Because they're the only ones in this election trying to stick their hands in people's back pockets and take their money. By the way, it's AFFECT the economy. Not EFFECT the economy. Looks like you could have used a better english teacher yourself.
  • by Carrie on Nov 2, 2011 at 09:36 PM
    People are so concerned with the economy, but I want to know what you think laying off another 80 teachers will do to the local economy? When the bus drivers, cafeteria workers, and secretaries get laid off, how will that effect the economy? Why do you want to blame teachers and schools for all the problems?
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