"We can't just keep cutting and cutting and cutting," said Tom Boasberg, superintendent of Denver Public Schools.
Over the past three years, state funding for DPS has dropped an average of $70 million per year. Boasberg says that number combined with the building maintenance needs of the district mean more funding is a priority.
"We have beautiful buildings in Denver Public Schools, but they're old," Boasberg said. "The average age of our buildings is over 55 years old, and we have critical maintenance needs in our district."
The district created the Citizens Planning Advisory Committee of 75 community leaders to examine the issue of asking voters for a property tax increase. The committee recommended that DPS seek a $49 million mill levy override to pump more money into the general fund and a $457 million bond issue to address building needs.
If passed, property taxes would increase $143 per year on a $225,000 home.
"It became clear to all of us that it was important that if we wanted to make sure that our kids continue to have quality education, we had to invest in them and we had to invest in their future," said Terrance Carroll, co-chair of the Citizens Planning Advisory Committee.
But, others believe more money is not the answer.
Ben DeGrow is the senior education policy analyst with the Independence Institute in Denver, a conservative political think tank. DeGrow says with the 2008 bond issue of $454 million, asking voters to support nearly a billion dollars in bond issues within four years is simply too much.
"It's an impact on families all across the economic spectrum, but especially those who have lower income or middle income families who are working hard and struggling to put food on the table," DeGrow said.
DeGrow points out that last year when voters were asked a similar question to raise taxes statewide for schools, Proposition 103, it was defeated soundly.
"People are hurting in this economy, voters in Denver and all over the state," DeGrow said.
Boasberg says he is sensitive to the economic issues, but he says if you look at the numbers, the property tax burden in Denver is low compared to other communities. On the average of a $225,000 home, Denver residents pay $757; Aurora residents pay $970; Cherry Creek residents pay $974; Northglenn residents pay $1,259.
"Even with this ask, our tax rates here in Denver will be among the very lowest," Boasberg said.
But, will the numbers of voters support it?
The Cherry Creek School District and Jefferson County School District have already approved ballot measures asking for their mill levy overrides and bond issues for their schools. The Denver School board will decide in August if it will place its own questions on the ballot.
"While we do recognize the economy still remains in a very slow recovery," Boasberg said. "We are certainly very hopeful that voters will recognize the promise of the investment and the need for investment."
(Copyright 2012 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)