Grassroots St. Vrain, an independent, non-partisan volunteer group, continues to work toward our mission of educating stakeholders in the St. Vrain Valley towns about education related issues. To that end, we are providing information about a third ballot initiative in November that will strongly impact the public sector – including education in Colorado.
Amendment 61 makes financing illegal for the State government and severely restricts financing at the local government, public entity and school district levels. As a result, financing for new schools, renovations, and significant capital improvements would become largely unavailable. Plus, the school year would likely shift to a March start and run through November in order to align with tax collection schedules.
How could we possibly get to such an outcome?
- In Colorado, our constitution requires that the budget be balanced every year. That is why we have seen annual cuts to all public services – including education – over the last several years. $110M was cut from schools in 2009 and $260M was cut for 2010, with potentially more to come.
- Because Amendment 61 would make all financing illegal for the state government, no bonds would be issued to build roads, prisons, higher education buildings or medical centers and no leases could be signed for property or copiers. The state will be forced to operate on a cash-only basis – and we will be the only state in the U.S. with such a restriction.
- The State Treasurer issues a line of credit (or a short-term, interest free loan) to school districts around the state in order for them to open in August, instead of the following March when property taxes revenues are actually collected. In March, the State is paid back. With Amendment 61 this will become illegal resulting in the shift of the school year.
- The maximum maturity of a bond City governments, public entities (e.g., water districts) and school districts could issue would be limited to 10 years instead of the current standard of 20 to 30 years. It is equivalent to paying your mortgage in 10 years instead of 30 – the payments go up and financing most major projects becomes too expensive.
- Under the same financing restrictions all financing decisions, not just bonds, will have to be voter approved. Everything from a re-finance to a copier lease will require a public election. The restrictions under Amendment 61 would have prevented all of the improvements implemented throughout the SVVSD over the summer.
Amendment 61 eliminates public investment in Colorado. Little infrastructure could be built and maintenance of existing roads and structures would be halted until cash reserves are established. In addition, the cost of operations for higher education and all public entities will skyrocket – resulting in much higher user fees and tuition rates.