Tri-towns hear appeal for SVVSD mill levy override

-A A +A
By Ben Wiebesiek

DACONO — On the Nov. 6 ballot, Carbon Valley voters will be asked to increase their property taxes to support the St. Vrain Valley School District.
    And to get the message out in support of this measure, representatives from the district have visited the tri-towns’ governments to make the case for the mill levy override to local officials.
    In the past few weeks, the city council for Dacono, and the boards of trustees for Frederick and Firestone heard the details in-person about the proposed mill levy override, which calls for raising $14.8 million, not exceed 6.27 mills.
    During Dacono’s city council meeting Sept. 24, Mike Schiers, assistant secretary for the school board, spoke about the need to offset the severe cuts by the state in education funding.
    “The last time we went for a mill levy override was 2008; we went for a $16 [million],” Schiers said. “And that pretty much has been eaten up. The state has taken away funding from us, $20 million so far since the cutbacks started. And so basically, that $16 [million] that we got to try to advance stuff, we’ve gone into the hole. So we’re worse off than we were in 2008.”
    Schiers said the mill levy override, if passed, would average $10 to $12 a month on a $200,000 home.
    “It’s not a huge amount, but it still adds up,” Schiers said. “We understand that times are tough. But we don’t know how we’re going to keep the same goals that we have at this time with that kind of cut without it starting to affect the kids in the classroom. Basically, we’ve cut everything we could. We’re tightening all the budgets up, and we’re at a point where we’re going to have to start cutting teachers, which will automatically raise class sizes.”
     Councilwoman Lori Saine asked Schiers about efforts to let seniors volunteer instead of paying the mill levy.
    “Yes, they can donate time with the district, and that takes credit for the mill levy charge,” Schiers said. “We went to the senior center a couple of weeks ago, and explained everything to them, and there was a lot of interest. We’ll see how many sign up for it. But it’s kind of a nice opportunity to allow them to ... donate some time instead.”
    Councilman Steve Bruno said contrasted the presentation by Schiers, to the sales pitch by district Superintendent Don Haddad.
    “You do a hell of a lot better job than Don, and you might want to speak to him about his tone when he sits in front of the boards,” Bruno said. “Because I know there was a bad taste in our mouths. He came up — no offense — and ‘used-car-salesmaned’ the whole thing. Basically saying, ‘If you don’t pass this, we’re going to fire all the teachers. And you have a great school district. Do you want a mediocre one? You suck if you don’t pass this.’ Kind of heavy-handed tactics.”
    Schiers promptly apologized, but agreed with the general premise that Haddad presented.
    “We’re not trying to come off that way,” Schiers replied. “It’s more or less a reality for the board right now. Either we get our funding, and we keep things in the direction they’re going. Or we don’t and we start making cutbacks along the way.”
    Frederick has already passed a resolution in support of the mill levy override. After hearing a presentation Sept. 26 from Haddad, the board of trustees voted 4-1 to back the measure. Trustee Gavin Payne was the dissenting vote, and Trustee Rafer Burnham was not present for the vote.
    Over in Firestone, spokeswoman Kristi Ritter said the board of trustees would vote to support the mill levy override Oct. 10.
    A breakdown of the proposed mill levy override is available at the district’s website: www.stvrain.k12.co.us.
    Out of the $14,800,000 total projected override, $4,350,000 will be marked for teacher/staff compensation, and another 4,200,000 to “maintain class sizes.” $1,000,000 is estimated to be used for preschool expansion and support, and $3,650,000 for technology support.

Contact Ben Wiebesiek at
303-659-2522, ext. 205, or email bwiebesiek@metrowestnewspapers.com.