Welcome to the BVSD Legislative Update, which will be provided throughout the 2017 session of the Colorado General Assembly which convened January 11. Each year, the BVSD Board of Education sets BVSD's legislative priorities for the session. My office directs the lobbying work of BVSD's legislative consulting firm, Policy Matters, LLC. BVSD also works with other PK-12 policy organizations such as the Colorado Association of School Boards (CASB), the Colorado Association of School Executives (CASE), the Colorado Education Association (CEA), and Great Education Colorado, a nonpartisan organization advocating for the benefit of Colorado's more than 800,000 public school students. Addressing Colorado's chronic shortfall in school funding is always on our legislative agenda along with other issues that could impact our classrooms. Each week, my office will send you a link to this page with updates from the State Capitol. If you are not yet on the email list and would like to be, please email BVSD Communications at communications@bvsd.org with your email address and you will be added to the distribution list. 

Friday, Jan. 20, 2017

School finance debate gets a lot more complicated
Governor John Hickenlooper’s proposal to cover a $106.2 million school-funding shortfall with higher marijuana taxes and with funds that otherwise would be spent on senior citizen property tax exemptions raised a lot of eyebrows at the Capitol this week.

In a letter to the Joint Budget Committee, the Governor said his plan is needed to prevent the negative factor from rising to $982.3 million for the 2017-18 school year.

Hickenlooper’s original budget plan, issued last November, proposed an $876.1 million negative factor, up from the current year’s figure of $830.7 million (the negative factor is the gap between full school funding and what the legislature actually approves).

The culprit here is a constitutional provision called the Gallagher Amendment, which sets limits on residential property values for taxation. Because of rising home market values, Gallagher is forcing a reduction of assessed values for tax purposes. The bottom line is a drop of $135.1 million in local revenues.

The Governor wants to cover that gap by halving the senior property tax exemption to raise $68.1 million and increasing the special sales tax on recreational marijuana to 12 percent, raising $41.9 million for school finance.

The legislature’s annual school finance debates usually involve pots of money that are already earmarked for education but which may not contain enough funds to fully support schools.

The Governor’s proposal involves sources of money not traditionally used for education and issues that are contentious on their own. 

For instance, some agencies and legislators have other ideas for using rising marijuana revenues, while other lawmakers are warning against expanded uses for that money. Some policy makers have expressed real concerns about the proposal to cut the senior property tax exemption and the harm that could cause for seniors. 

If the Governor’s plan plays out – and that’s by no means certain at this point in time – it could require lots of different bills to set school funding for 2017-18. In addition to the annual school finance bill, there probably would have to be separate bills to change the senior tax exemption, raise the marijuana tax and allow those revenues to be used for schools. The Joint Budget Committee will likely set the budget for school finance in March after the March 20 revenue forecast is released.