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Denver, Cherry Creek ask voters for $1 billion in more funding during COVID

DPS wants a $795 million bond issue, the largest ever proposed in Colorado history.

DENVER — Every now and then, school districts like Denver and Cherry Creek turn to voters with important questions.

"In fact, I would argue that it's a necessary part of Denver's economic recovery," Angela Cobian, Denver School Board Treasurer, said.

Cobian and other board members voted to have Denver Public Schools (DPS) ask voters to increase property taxes in change for a $795 million bond issue to renovate buildings and old systems and provide campuses across the city with air conditioning. If passed, it would be the biggest bond issue approved in Colorado history.

DPS is also asking for another $32 million for operations in a ballot measure called "Debt Free Schools." Cobian said the ask is great, but so are the problems.

"I think it speaks to the level of need within our already underfunded school district," Cobian said.

Karen Fisher is president of the Cherry Creek School District (CCSD). She supports Cherry Creek's campaign to ask voters for a $150 million bond issue in building funds to support new construction and build a mental health day treatment center.

"Let the voters see all the facts and decide for themselves whether or not we should," Fisher said.

Both school board members know these are important questions to voters during an economy under stress from COVID-19.

"COVID-19 has only exacerbated the needs that our students already had," Cobian said.

Fisher said CCSD board members had a tough time deciding whether to put these measures on the ballot in November because of the pandemic.

"Not only are we concerned about the impact on our families' tax bills, but we also knew that we needed to tighten our belts as much as we could," Fisher said.

But, she said this year's election is especially important when posing a question to voters.

"We almost always go to our voters in Presidential election years because more people vote and that’s important to us," Fisher said. 

The impact of these ballot measures on a $465,000 home, if passed, is an increase in Cherry Creek of about $92 a year and $51 per year in Denver, according to Cobian. If the ballot measures fail, both school districts confirm that property taxes would actually go down next year.

"It's an investment in our community that's gonna have years and years and years of positive benefits for the city as a whole," Cobian said.

That's why they said they are asking voters tough questions during these tough times.

"If we didn’t go to our voters and we didn’t give our voters the opportunity to pass this, then it would be up to us to make cuts," Fisher said.