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TRUTH TEST: School tax advertisement is fair on price, short on specifics

5:31 PM, Oct 8, 2013   |    comments
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KUSA - With less than a month before Colorado's 2013 election, supporters of Amendment 66 are on the air with the tagline "big change, small price" to convince voters to approve the income tax hike for public education.

9NEWS will hold those who run political ads on our networks accountable for what they say. Check out previous Truth Tests here.

EMBED VIDEO: http://bit.ly/19TvnxT

Claim: Amendment 66 costs $133 a year (median earner)
Verdict: FAIR

The ad bears a disclaimer that it bases this claim on Colorado's median household income of about $58,000.

Depending on your income and tax deductions, you could pay a lot more or less than $133.

THE best way to understand what your tax increase would be is to use the state's online calculator here, using your actual taxable income, after deductions.

Amendment 66 would fundamentally change Colorado's income tax structure.

Instead of a 4.63 percent flat tax for all income brackets, the income tax would switch to a progressive rate system.

Taxes would be 5 percent on the first $75,000 of taxable income and 5.9 percent for income above that threshold.

The campaign gets its $133 number using state statistics (page 84) to calculate the average deductions a household in that income range would have.

9NEWS was able to double-check the fairness of this calculation by using data from the Colorado Department of Revenue, which showed the 2010 median Federal Taxable Income (post-deductions) for Colorado was $31,815, a figure that yields an annual tax increase of $118 under Amendment 66.

Figures are not yet available for 2012, though they would likely to be higher due to improved economic conditions in Colorado.

CLAIM: Amendment 66 would fund more teacher aides and bring back gym class
Verdict: INCOMPLETE

Amendment 66 would likely be used to fund these programs in some schools, but not in others.

The law gives flexibility to schools and districts in using much of the additional funding.

What we can say for certain is that Amendment 66 also dedicates funding to other specific purposes.

The largest share of the new tax revenue goes to incentives for high-performing teachers and principals.

There is also money set aside specifically to fund full-day kindergarten and expanded preschool for qualifying children.

CLAIM: Amendment 66 keeps money out of administration
Verdict: MISLEADING

The ad wouldn't lead you to believe it, but Amendment 66 would put money into both classrooms AND administration.

The aforementioned money to attract and retain high-performing principals (and teachers) serves as one example.

Senate Bill 219, which the tax question would fund, specifically funds some purely administrative costs, such as allowing districts to be reimbursed for the costs of holding elections seeking property tax increases.

Proponents of Amendment 66 point to language in the new law designed to require transparency with the new funds, arguing that this will discourage unnecessary administrative spending.

SB 219 does require a publicly accessible website which can be used to trace the spending.

Another provision requires a study to evaluate the return on investment for taxpayers every four years.

The idea is to empower lawmakers to steer funding toward programs that produce results and away from programs that don't.

"If money is spent on administration that doesn't lead to better achievement, the legislature could end the funding," said Curtis Hubbard, a spokesman for the campaign.

SEE MORE TRUTH TESTS HERE

BOTTOM LINE:

Voting yes on 66 will put a lot more money into the education system.

Much of it would go to the classroom, but there's more to it than that.

The ad does give you a fair idea of what the measure will costs a typical taxpayer.

(KUSA-TV © 2013 Multimedia Holdings Corporation)

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