JEFFERSON COUNTY - When Shondra Adams got her school fee bill this year, she says she had 'sticker shock', especially after the Jefferson County School District got a property tax increase approved to generate about $140 million in extra funding.
"I feel like they're double dipping," Adams, parents of three students, "Here, we paid the bus fees. We pay our taxes and we pass additional taxes with the mill levies. They continue to receive money from the school fees."
Last year, school districts across Colorado approved nearly a billion dollars in added revenue through various questions to raise property taxes for schools. Jeffco Schools had a $99 million bond issue passed along with a $39 mill levy override.
For Adams and her three children, she is looking at paying $743 in fees total for her kids at Shaffer Elementary and Falcon Bluffs Middle School. She knows that some of those fees are listed as optional like transportation, but she believes the extra revenue should have covered all that.
"We pay extremely high taxes in our neighborhood and I was hoping we'd see some relief," Adams said.
Superintendent Cindy Stevenson says the passage of the bond and mill is great for the district, but not nearly enough to offset all the cuts.
"We are very grateful for what we received because it allowed us to maintain our excellence," Stevenson said. "However, it didn't give us additional funds."
Stevenson says in 2009, the school funding totaled nearly $7,100 per student. In 2014, that same number is closer to $6,400 per pupil.
"We are still $63 million below where our 2009 funding was," Stevenson said. "Without (the mill levy override), we would've even been more than that."
Adams says a fee of about $50 per student is more reasonable.
"I'm willing to pay a more reasonable amount," Adams said. "But, I think $743 to get my three children started in school is not a reasonable amount."
Stevenson says schools can work out payment plans for families who struggle with the fees. Anyone who receives free or reduced lunch list does not have to pay the fees at all.
"We really do try and keep them at a minimum, first and foremost because we know this is a difficult time for families," Stevenson said.
Adams says families should not have to deal with these fees at all.
"I hope that's not the reality that they don't continue to pass the fees on," Adams said. "I want them to find a way, long-term, to reduce the fees."
(KUSA-TV © 2013 Multimedia Holdings Corporation)