D51 school board not abandoning tax hike question following survey

By: Tim Ciesco Email
By: Tim Ciesco Email

GRAND JUNCTION, Colo. (KKCO) -- After learning the results of a recent public survey, the District 51 School Board asked staff to draft two proposals asking the public for a mill levy override to help fund local schools.

Board members will meet Tuesday, August 23, to vote on the two resolutions and ultimately decide whether voters see a property tax hike question on the November ballot.

The district hired Denver firm George K. Baum & Company to conduct a non-scientific mail-in survey and a scientific phone survey to gauge public support for the measure, before taking any kind of official action to put it on the ballot. During a school board meeting Tuesday night, representatives from the firm presented the results to board members.

Of the more than 32,000 mail-in surveys that were sent out, 8,253 -- or roughly 25 percent -- were completed and returned. 52 percent of participants said they would vote in favor of a $14.5 million mill levy override, while 44 percent said they would oppose it. 4 percent were unsure.

The phone survey produced very different results. Survey creators say they polled a sample population of 409 people who accurately reflected the demographics of likely voters in the 2011 election. District 51 staff members were not allowed to participate.

Participants were asked two separate times if they would support a mill levy override, with follow up questions in between.

The first time, 41 percent said they would support the measure, while 57 percent opposed it. The second time, 42 percent said they would support it, while 55 percent opposed it.

Hill Research Consultants, which ran the study, wrote in its report that based on these findings there is an "extremely low probability" the measure would be approved.

"Unless a measure has 58 percent approval or higher in early polling, it is unlikely to withstand the gauntlet or criticism and decline in support a campaign inevitably brings," wrote HRC.

52 percent of participants said their current local tax burden is too high and 43 percent were concerned about the effect the measure's passage would have on their family's budget.

Board members say they have mixed feelings about the mixed survey results.

"I'm pleased with the number of mail-in surveys that were returned because I think that shows a strong indication that people are very interested in this ballot issue," said board member Greg Mikolai. "I'm disappointed in the phone survey results, but I would point out that phone surveys don't vote. It's going to be the people of Mesa County that will."

In their discussion board members acknowledged that asking the public for money during these economic times is a tough sell -- but said they wouldn't move forward with it if they didn't think it was necessary to give students the education they deserve.

"I think what people need to remember is the impact that a failed mill levy override could have on our schools in terms of budget cuts," said Mikolai. "We're talking more reductions in staff and a greater number of students per classroom."

The district's state funding has been slashed 20 percent over the past three years. During the upcoming school year, the district will receive about $6,100 in per pupil funding, which is below the state average of $7,000.

"We can be viewed in terms of how we take care of our children in this Valley," said Mikolai. "A business or a corporation looking to come into the Valley, they're going to look to see how we take care of our own."

Following the presentation, board members asked staff to draft two proposals -- one asking for a mill levy override in a specific dollar amount, the other asking for it in the form of a percentage -- which they will vote on next week. They asked that both of the measures set a sunset date when the override would expire.

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  • by DIST51SUCKS Location: Loserland on Dec 7, 2011 at 07:09 PM
    What great news knowing it failed. Dist. 51 is full of incompetents in administration especially at the Fruita 8-9 joke.
  • by kate Location: fms on Nov 1, 2011 at 08:58 PM
    hope the levy fails.
  • by Florence Location: GJ City on Aug 23, 2011 at 04:36 PM
    Delete 50% of the overpaid Admin staff and your problem is solved. Eliminate parking lots at the schools for students or charged a parking fee - I resent paying for their parking.
  • by Nun Location: Grand Valley on Aug 18, 2011 at 03:29 PM
    Why doesn't the school district find an investor to sell all the District 51 properties to and then lease them back. It worked for the City to raise money for the new cop shop.
  • by Freedom Location: 1610 AM on Aug 18, 2011 at 08:00 AM
    WOW! Hot issue here... I'll be voting NO as well. Education is not what it used to be in this nation. Parents need to peel away from the govt fool system and look at alternatives. On another note - FREEDOM 1610 AM Tune-in and listen to 24/7 grassroots alternative radio. Say good-bye to the mainstream media and the grip they have on whats going on in America. Think for yourselves, don't be told what to think. ttyl
    • reply
      by Disgusted on Aug 18, 2011 at 06:06 PM in reply to Freedom
      Your transmission is breaking up.....please repeat, your signal is weak..........did not copy that, please repeat.
  • by Anonymous on Aug 18, 2011 at 06:41 AM
    I have never lived anywhere that cares so little for it's childrens education. Between the district and their lack of spending money wisely to the people who say they either don't have children or home school them. You will all be sorry when you have uneducated hoodlums running this godforsaken town because smart, educated people won't live or move to a town that doesn't support education.
    • reply
      by SnickeringSally on Aug 18, 2011 at 11:20 AM in reply to
      Oh good grief, stop with the drama and do a little research on school funding and dropout rates. See if there is a correlation..... We'll wait.
    • reply
      by TLC on Aug 18, 2011 at 07:00 PM in reply to
      The uneducated hoodlums are called socialist libs.
  • by Disgusted Location: Ritterville on Aug 17, 2011 at 11:22 PM
    YES YOU DID! How is that "change" working for you?
  • by Phil Location: Fruita on Aug 17, 2011 at 07:58 PM
    It is humorous to read the complaints about high property taxes, people here have no idea how fortunate they are; I have lived all over the US and the property taxes here are considerably lower than almost anywhere. I look at it in these terms: after some figuring, the mill levy override will cost taxpayers owning a $200k home roughly $11 per month. If you also take into account that property values have been lowered so much in the recent assessment, property taxes with the override will still be lower than the previous assessment. I know times are tough everywhere, but I see the big picture that the energy companies will eventually come back and times will be good again. The $11 increase is not very much considering well-funded schools are a big factor in determining long-term property values, lower crime rates, and attracting educated people, families, and jobs to the western slope. If the taxpaying public has a say as to how the funds are dispersed, this is a no-brainer.
    • reply
      by SayItAgain on Aug 17, 2011 at 08:05 PM in reply to Phil
      The last sentence is key. If the taxpaying public has a say as to how the funds are dispersed. The problem is a complete lack of confidence that the district will spend the money wisely nor how the public wants.
    • reply
      by Luke on Aug 17, 2011 at 08:31 PM in reply to Phil
      If the district gets what it wants, the very first thing that happens is; the administration gets a big raise, then the teachers get a big raise, then maintenance gets a raise. It has happened every time they get something like this, everytime. If the environmentalists have their way, the energy boom will be alternative energy only. The minute a tax or bond project comes to its sunset there is already a new project in the works to start, and each time it is a higher price to be paid for the project. If you will, a new higher tax. I worked for the school district and saw this happen, several times. Taxes don't go down around here, they are disguised as something else, the only thing that goes down is the property values.
      • reply
        by anonymous on Aug 18, 2011 at 07:26 AM in reply to Luke
        Thank you Luke! For those of you complaining that the district needs more tax money...please refer to your property tax breakdown you were mailed at tax time and see how much of it they already get. What have they done with it?
    • reply
      by anonymous on Aug 18, 2011 at 07:23 AM in reply to Phil
      Well-funded schools are fine and dandy....IF hey use the funding for the benefit of the students. Please tell me how paying salaries to administrators which afford a high school principal to own a PORSCHE is benefitting the students? I think you need to do your homework on the history this district has of chronic money wasting!
      • reply
        by Phil on Aug 18, 2011 at 09:44 PM in reply to anonymous
        Luke, I guess from where I've lived compared to here the property taxes and the amount dedicated to schools are considerably higher, so to me it's not such a huge issue. In Fruita (where I live), I have seen the benefit of the 8/9 school and Rimrock elememtary with the last bond because the schools in Fruita were overcrowded. I don't know about the Porsche issue; the two teachers I know who are neighbors and teach in District 51 drive extremely nice cars because their husbands are doctors. I truly think the voting public could hold District 51 officials accountable to how the new bond money is spent.
        • reply
          by Luke on Aug 19, 2011 at 05:56 AM in reply to Phil
          Like SAYITAGAIN said, "IF", the public has a say, even when the public says "NO", it means nothing to this crowd. All the public is here for is to pay the bills, they even find new formulas so the SAT tests look better than they have in the past. SS is right on as well, there is a huge waste of money and time, the NEA (union) has an agenda, and money is the center of that agenda. Just keep throwing money at their agenda without asking questions or making any demands and you play your part in that agenda the only way they want you too.
  • by SnickeringSally Location: District 51 on Aug 17, 2011 at 06:30 PM
    I will vote against a tax hike if put on the ballot. Why aides? We never had aides my parents, and their parents never had aides with 30 students in a classroom. (course kids weren't up walking around, talking, discipline was strict, students were at school to learn) Are today's teaching methods really that dependent on aides? Make parents pay for busing, again another new phenomenon that parent's expect now. I'd pay to bus my kids, I don't think others should wind up paying for that service, and it is a HUGE expense. Stop the ridiculous teacher inservices, I've participated in a few of those. If they are no better then they used to be...then what a colossal waste of time and money. Early really Wednesday, think of the contact hours that could be recovered there, which would mean fewer school days, fewer number of days for transportation, fewer paid days for support staff, fewer days running utilities and so on. Remember more money thrown at schools does not solve our education problems; union leaders and members, after all isn't it all about the children?? SS
    • reply
      by anonymous on Aug 18, 2011 at 07:29 AM in reply to SnickeringSally
      The aides were READING aides. 130 of them let go at the end of the school year. READING AIDES are the reason my child with an advanced level of reading was challenged at school. READING AIDES were the support staff for the students who were behind their class in reading. With 30 students in the classroom, the teachers do not have the time to give THOSE students the individual attention they need.
      • reply
        by SnickeringSally on Aug 18, 2011 at 10:44 AM in reply to anonymous
        Are these aides irreplaceable? Do they have some type of COMPLEX degree or education? Can a VOLUNTEER be used instead. CAN the school DISTRICT possibly get innovative? St. Mary's hospital saves thousands using volunteers, why CAN't the school district? YANNO progressive thinking and such.
        • reply
          by Anonymous on Aug 18, 2011 at 10:53 AM in reply to SnickeringSally
          Do YOU volunteer at school...or are you AT WORK DURING THE SCHOOLDAY like most of the rest of us?
        • reply
          by SnickeringSally on Aug 18, 2011 at 11:33 AM in reply to SnickeringSally
          anonymous, indeed I do volunteer as do thousands of other people in this valley including high school students and retirees. The school district should utilize this great talent pool recruit, train and put em to work.
      • reply
        by CrustyOldGeezer on Aug 30, 2011 at 07:28 AM in reply to anonymous
        It's YOUR child. It's YOUR responsibility to "volunteer" to make sure YOUR CHILD has an improved chance in life. Let's see.... did I mention that it's YOUR RESPONSIBILITY? You rely on others to teach your child and assume that you have no RESPONSIBILITY to your child beyond that? How odd... maybe you want your child to grow up expecting to have no responsibility for anything too?
  • by Anonymous on Aug 17, 2011 at 03:59 PM
    Typical socialist lib. Notice all her code speak And when you call her on it she plays the wealth envy card.
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