Why not raise local taxes instead of state taxes?

Educating Colorado's children is the responsibility of all of us. Our schools being underfunded is a state-level problem, so we need a state-wide solution.

In addition, as school districts have attempted to address this locally, inequities are growing across Colorado. Because of factors outside of a district's control — property wealth and commercial/residential mix — the amount a district can raise through Mill Levy Overrides (MLOs) vary significantly. Put another way, school districts have no control over what 1 mill can raise.

The range for what 1 mill can raise is from a low of about $4,000 to a high of $13,000,000. The average dollars raised by 1 mill is about $500,000 and the median is $110,000. Therefore, a local school district's capacity to address the cuts they have received from the state through the Budget Stabilization (Negative Factor) varies greatly. The cuts made to districts also vary greatly across Colorado as depicted in this chart:

Revenue from property taxes has been shrinking, which has impacted school budgets. In 1982, voters passed the Gallagher Amendment to shield homeowners from large property tax increases as home values rose rapidly. Over time, residential property tax collections fell, meaning fewer local dollars were available for schools. This shifted more of the responsibility to finance education to the state. 

One way legislators have attempted to supplement school districts’ budgets is by increasing the amount of money local school districts can raise through the use of Mill Levy Overrides. Mill Levy Overrides (MLOs) are ballot measures that ask voters living in a specific school district to approve the collection of additional “mills” on property taxes, above what the state allows. The additional tax collection is then directly distributed to the voters’ school district.

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