by Lisa Crocket
The Douglas County School District is considering ballot measures that will ask for a funding increase in this November’s election.
The district is seeking monies to build new schools to alleviate rampant overcrowding as well as maintain or restore budgets for technology, transportation, gifted students, reading intervention programs and security. Though Douglas County students consistently perform well on standardized tests, the district receives the lowest per-pupil revenue in the Denver Metro area.
“By law, taxpayers can fund up to 20 percent of our operating budget through local overrides. Right now in Douglas County, taxpayers fund about 10.5 percent,” said Douglas County School District Chief Operating Officer, Steve Herzog.
Overcrowding is familiar to Castle Pines North (CPN) families. Timber Trail Elementary, one of CPN’s elementary schools, operates on a year-round schedule because the number of students enrolled in the school far exceeds available space. Buffalo Ridge Elementary was on a year-round schedule until the fall of 2005.
“Running a school on a four-track system, like many of our schools in the district do now, is a good short-term measure,” said Herzog. “However, given the additional operational cost of running a school year round, over time it makes more sense to build permanent facilities.”
Up until now, the district has funded many of its building and educational projects based on growth in the county. A slowing real estate market, lower-than-projected inflation rates, as well as rising energy costs, have put the district in a crunch.
“The district cut $21 million this year to compensate for lower-than-projected new enrollment and higher costs,” said Herzog.
Without a mill levy increase and a bond issue, the district expects shortfalls to continue in years to come.
“If we can’t get these measures passed to increase funding, we will fall further and further behind,” said Herzog.
Despite the seeming abundance of young children and teenagers in Douglas County, only about 30 percent of households in the county are directly affiliated with the school district, either because they have children enrolled in a Douglas County school or they are employed by the school district.
“This presents a bit of a problem for us -- we have to get at least 20 percent of voters who have no immediate connection to the school to vote yes on these measures,” said Herzog. “However, when we meet with business groups and other organizations, they have no trouble understanding that good schools are good for the whole community. A good school district can increase the value of a home by two to ten percent; good school districts promote economic development. We’ll be working to get that message out.”
To learn more about the Douglas County School District, please visit: www.dcsdk12.org.