State Budget Process
In early November each year, the Governor of Colorado releases a budget proposal for the following fiscal year (July 1 – June 30). After much back and forth during the legislative session, January to May, the Colorado State Legislature approves a final budget. This budget takes into consideration any bills that were passed during the current legislative session. The budget is used by the State of Colorado from July until January when actual state revenue can be evaluated, supplemental funding can be requested, and adjustments can be made to the budget, including education funding.
How Schools are Funded
Education funding comes first from local property taxes and then any remaining per pupil funding is backfilled by the state. View our video “Bottoms Up” for a refresher on how schools are funded in Colorado. The local property tax contribution is determined by applying the local school finance mill rate (not including any local mill levy overrides or “3A” dollars) to the assessed value of all local property. The value of that property is assessed every two years; when property values increase, the local contribution to per pupil funding in the school finance formula will increase, as well. These new preliminary property tax estimates are released in April every other year. (If you own your home, you probably just received your new assessment from the county in the mail). In December, those numbers are finalized.
Additional $70 million Anticipated
This year, the total statewide property tax estimate came in $70 million above what was anticipated by the legislature when they wrote the Colorado State Budget for fiscal year 2015-2016. This gives them a choice when they do their mid-year corrections to the budget in January. The legislature can either keep education funding the same by reducing the state contribution to K-12 funding — or it can use the increase in property tax revenues (which were paid specifically for education) to increase school funding.
Why GSV is Paying Attention
GSV, in conjunction with others across Colorado, made a request to our legislators to agree to maintain the K-12 funding in the current year budget, regardless of an increase in property tax collection. Why? Because in 2009, the Colorado State Legislature reinterpreted Amendment 23 which was passed by voters in 2000. The reinterpretation resulted in cuts to state level education funding which currently amount to $855 million per year ($29 million for St. Vrain). As the Colorado economy has recovered from the recession, education advocates have been asking legislators to invest in Colorado’s students and reverse these cuts. Little gain was made during this legislative session as only a $25 million reversal was approved.
Results of GSV Action
An amendment to the 2015 School Finance Bill (SB 15-267) was approved by the legislature in May 2015 promising that it will maintain the current level of state funding, so that any increased property taxes will result in an increase in K-12 funding. Unfortunately this promise is not a guarantee and GSV will continue advocating in January to make sure our wishes are clear.