DougCo schools superintendent makes passionate case for MLO and bond

Suzie Glassman

By Suzie Glassman/NewsBreak Denver

(Castle Rock, CO) Superintendent Erin Kane recommended last night that the board approve placing a mill levy override (MLO) and bond measure on the ballot this November.

Although Kane and her leadership team were busy this summer educating community organizations and business leaders about the district's financial needs, the board has yet to vote on whether they’ll spend close to $300,000 required to add the measure to this year’s ballot.

Kane’s leadership team spoke passionately to the board about the impact an MLO and bond would have on their departments. Richard Cosgrove, chief of operations, said the need for new buses, building maintenance, and new schools has reached a critical level.

Deputy superintendent Danelle Hiatt told the board the passage of the MLO and bond would provide all its students the foundation to achieve whatever their endeavor will be when they graduate. “It’s critical that we invest in the people who make a difference for our kids,” she said.

The board will vote on moving forward with the MLO and bond at its next meeting on August 23.

Staff recommendations

Kane and her team recommended asking for a $60 million MLO to increase teacher and staff compensation and $450 million for a bond to pay for building, expanding, updating, and maintaining its current facilities.

Taxpayer impact

Polling shows that most DougCo residents support increasing teacher salaries. Still, with rampant inflation and a weak economy, many question whether a predominately conservative county would vote for a tax increase.

Kane said, “In real dollar terms, if both bond and MLO were to pass in November, the impact on taxpayers is $1 per week per $100,000 of home value as of right now. The more homeowners who pay the fixed dollar amount (due to the number of homes increasing), the more the impact on the homeowner will decrease.”

Unlike other MLO measures, homeowners won’t pay more if property values increase because the MLO dollar amount is fixed. The tax on a $500,000 property equals $5 a week or $255 a year.

Should taxpayers approve a $450 million bond, taxes would not increase because it would not change the current mill. If the bond doesn’t pass, taxes will decrease slightly.

How DCSD will spend the money

Kane’s presentation clarified precisely what licensed, non-licensed, and hourly staff would get should the MLO pass.

The average licensed teacher would get a 9% raise, while non-licensed staff would see an 8% increase.

Should a bond pass, the district will build new elementary schools in Sterling Ranch, Crystal Valley, and the Canyons. It will also expand Sierra and Mesa middle schools.

According to Kane, the district will use bond money to invest $54.5 million in athletics and activities upgrades, career and technical additions, special education programming, and information technology. Kane said $15.5 million would go to safety and security upgrades, and $139 million would go to maintenance and transportation upgrades.

Kane also provided sample ballot language for the board to discuss and provide feedback.

DougCo’s seven school board members all seemed to agree that an MLO and bond is what’s best for the district. Director Elizabeth Hanson said, “I think that was truly one of the first times I felt we were really focused on doing something positive and exciting, and I haven’t felt that way in a really long time, so thank you.”

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