Now is not the time to raise taxes on the everyday, hardworking citizens and businesses of Douglas County, Colorado. The people of Douglas County are not taxed too little. They are taxed too much. Property taxes, sales taxes, excise taxes, income taxes, vehicle registration taxes, gas taxes, gas fees, etc. all add up. Additionally, Douglas County residents are facing higher retail grocery prices, higher gasoline prices, an economic recession, inflation at a multi-decade high, a world of destabilized relationships with global powers, and dysfunctional government.
There is a huge property tax increase on the horizon for Douglas County residents WITHOUT passage of the proposed Mill Levy Override (MLO) tax and new tax to pay off the doubling of Douglas County School District’s (DCSD) debt. Douglas County real estate is expected to be reappraised 40% to 50% upward in 2023. So, a $4,000.00 property tax bill in 2022 becomes a $6,000.00 tax bill in 2024. A $6,000.00 property tax bill becomes a $9,000.00 tax bill in 2024. Why? Because the new assessed valuations will be calculated near the top of the real estate market. This is one of the foundational points for my “Against” arguments in the Douglas County Ballot Proposals and Election Information Booklet. Vote “NO” on DCSD ballot proposals 5A and 5B.
There have been several articles in local publications and a video from the School District attempting to confuse the voter regarding my arguments “Against” the DCSD 5A and 5B property tax increases. In this essay I will restate and clarify my points for you, the taxpayer, who will pay for these increased taxes.
5A REBUTTAL – $60 MILLION PROPERTY TAX INCREASE FOR PAY INCREASES
Douglas County Election Information Booklet Arguments Against 5A – DCSD Board Rebuttal and Taxpayer Response
5A Argument Against #1:
There is a huge property tax increase in the store for Douglas County property owners in 2024 even without this mill levy override from the School District.
DCSD BOARD REBUTTAL: None
5A Argument Against #2:
Douglas County real estate is expected to be reappraised 40% to 50% upward in 2023, so a $4,000 property tax bill in 2022 becomes a $6,000 property tax bill in 2024 and a $6,000 property tax bill becomes a $9,000 property tax bill. This MLO property tax increase would be IN ADDITION to those reappraisal increases.
DCSD BOARD REBUTTAL: None
5A Argument Against #3:
By 2024, the School District’s proposed MLO would add an ADDITIONAL $520 to the property taxes to a home valued at $1,000,000 after the 2023 re-appraisal.
DCSD BOARD REBUTTAL: This isn’t true because the MLO is fixed. When home values go up through the 2023 appraisal process, the $1 per week per $100K in home value (what the MLO will cost taxpayers) won’t change because the $60 million isn’t tied to mills. It’s a flat dollar amount. By 2024, the dollar impact will go down because more homes and businesses will contribute to the fixed amount.
TAXPAYER RESPONSE TO DCSD BOARD REBUTTAL: Mill Levy Override property tax calculations are complicated. The DCSD Board provided their model supporting the tax increase amount of $52 per $100,000 of home value, and I calculated the $520 on a home valued at $1,000,000 using their model and assumptions. The $520.00 in additional property tax via the Mill Levy Override would be for tax year 2022. The $60 million total tax increase is fixed. DCSD has the power to adjust the mills up or down to collect this $60 million from taxpayers. If assessed values increase 50% in 2023, then a $1,000,000 home will be assessed at $1,500,000 therefore the estimated Mill Levy Override tax would decrease from $520.00 to $334.00. The key point is that this MLO property tax increase is IN ADDITION TO the 50% higher property taxes caused by the 2023 reassessment, which will be billed and paid in 2024.
5A Argument Against #4:
This tax increase would be a fixed $60 million every year with no sunset.
DCSD BOARD REBUTTAL: None
5A Argument Against #5:
The District can levy whatever mill rate is necessary to collect the $60 million every year.
DCSD BOARD REBUTTAL: None
5A Argument Against #6:
The average teacher salary in DCSD is $58,000, which only looks low compared to the districts with the highest teacher salaries like Boulder (average $82,000) and Cherry Creek (average $76,000).”
DCSD BOARD REBUTTAL: The average salary is correct and acknowledged that comparing DougCo teacher salaries to Boulder is a fair statement. However, DCSD said, “Cherry Creek schools are our closest competition for teachers.”
TAXPAYER RESPONSE TO DCSD BOARD REBUTTAL: Cherry Creek may have the highest average teacher pay located geographically close to the DCSD. But that does not make Cherry Creek the leader that sets teacher salaries for the market. The market price is set by a composite of all the similar school districts in the area plus intangibles such as appreciation from senior leaders and supervisors, respect, organizational culture, work environment, relationships with peers and colleagues, safety, opportunity to lead and grow professionally, and work/life balance. Cherry Creek’s annual TEACHER TURNOVER, not staff turnover, or employee turnover, but TEACHER TURNOVER, is 15.9% compared to DCSD TEACHER TURNOVER of 16.5%, a difference of 0.6%. The DCSD Board’s marketing point that higher teacher pay is the key element for better teacher retention is misinformation.
5A Argument Against #7:
For the 13 largest districts in Colorado, the average teacher salary is $63,000; so, the School District is in the normal range of market salaries although on the low side.
DCSD BOARD REBUTTAL: DougCo is one of the most expensive places to live, so a statewide comparison isn’t necessarily fair. Our teachers don’t live in rural Colorado.
TAXPAYER RESPONSE TO DCSD BOARD REBUTTAL: The DCSD Board’s statement that teachers don’t live in rural Colorado is irrelevant. My comparison was to the 13 largest school districts, of which all but one is located in the front range metro area. DCDS pay is in the normal range although on the low side compared to the thirteen. Regarding the Board’s statement that Douglas County is one of the most expensive places to live, consider home prices. Per the Zillow data base, the most expensive Colorado counties are, in order Pitkin, Eagle, San Miguel, Summit, Routt, Boulder, Elbert, then Douglas. Second, there is no correlation between housing prices and teacher pay. The more expensive counties have average teacher pay in the $55,000 to $65,000 range with just a few outliers. Throughout the metro area teachers have choices of where to live and how much to pay for housing.
5A Argument Against #8:
More money spent on education does not buy better education outcomes. Here is a comparison of the School District to Cherry Creek on some key education performance measures. Based on these measures, Douglas County, with lower salaries, is outperforming the high-salary Cherry Creek school district.
DCSD BOARD REBUTTAL: The School District acknowledged with pride that DougCo students scored better than Cherry Creek on the Colorado Measures of Academic Success (CMAS), but the issue is retaining teachers. “If we can’t keep the amazing teachers who are doing that great work, we won’t be able to keep that level of performance.”
TAXPAYER RESPONSE TO DCSD BOARD REBUTTAL: The DCSD Board’s statement above does not recognize the excellence of DCSD students and parents. As noted in 5A Argument Against #6: Cherry Creek’s annual TEACHER TURNOVER, not staff turnover, or employee turnover, but TEACHER TURNOVER, is 15.9% compared to DCSD TEACHER TURNOVER of 16.5%, a difference of 0.6%. The DCSD Board’s marketing point that higher teacher pay is the key element for better teacher retention is misinformation. A good tool that the DCSD board could have provided for voters would have been a full analysis of what taxpayers could expect from a $60 million property tax increase for higher teacher pay.
5A Argument Against #9:
If the School District gave DCSD teachers a 10% raise, the cost would be $5,800 per teacher times, 4,400 licensed teachers which is $25.5 million not $60 million that the School District is asking for with this Mill Levy Override.”
DCSD BOARD REBUTTAL: The District said this isn’t an accurate statement because it doesn’t factor in the PERA benefits the district pays, which are part of pension benefits that aren’t optional. A $10,000 raise costs the district just over $12,000 with benefits. Of $60 million, $44.5 is the district’s share and $15.5 million goes to charter schools for their teacher’s compensation.
TAXPAYER RESPONSE TO DCSD BOARD REBUTTAL: As the DSCD noted, adding the District’s additional cost for the District’s share of the PERA (Public Employees Retirement Association) contribution, a 10% raise of $5,800 would cost the district an additional $7,018. Plus, the District acknowledged in their video that there would be additional Medicare and Medicaid premium costs as well. Per the District’s video, employees pay an additional 11% contribution to PERA. PERA is an underfunded pension plan, which means PERA’s contractual pension obligations to retirees exceed its resources to pay those obligations. Question 5A is a proposed increase for teachers and all staff salary and benefits which correlates to higher PERA costs across the board.
5A Argument Against #10:
This ballot question 5A hurts Douglas County residents. Higher property taxes make it difficult for young and senior homeowners. Higher property taxes also affect renters and rents must increase to pay for landlord’s higher property taxes. Additionally, 5A is a general fund money grab by the School District and should be rejected.
DCSD BOARD REBUTTAL: Kane took issue with the statement that 5A is a general fund money grab. She said the language of 5A limits spending to competitive compensation only. The district can’t legally spend those funds on anything else.
TAXPAYER RESPONSE TO DCSD BOARD REBUTTAL: This ballot question 5A hurts Douglas County residents. Higher property taxes make it difficult for young and senior homeowners. Higher property taxes also affect renters and rents must increase to pay for landlord’s higher property taxes. I am concerned that fixed and ever-increasing property taxes will tax people out of their homes and property.
5B REBUTTAL – $450 MILLION OF NEW DEBT
Douglas County Election Information Booklet Arguments Against 5B – DCSD Board Rebuttal and Taxpayer Response
5B Argument Against #1:
Taxpayers are facing a huge property tax increase coming in 2024 as Douglas County real estate is expected to be reappraised 40% to 50% higher, so a $4,000 property tax bill in 2022 becomes a $6,000 property tax bill, and a $6,000 property tax bill becomes a $9,000 property tax bill.
DCSD BOARD REBUTTAL: None
5B Argument Against #2:
The School District wants voters to approve $450 million of new debt with a total repayment amount including interest of $775 million, all of which will be paid by property taxes.
DCSD BOARD REBUTTAL: None
5B Argument Against #3:
All property owners, even those who have no students in the School District, will pay the property tax to repay this $775 million debt principal and interest.
DCSD BOARD REBUTTAL: None
5B Argument Against #4:
The School District now has total general obligation debt of $383 million so the $450 million of new debt would more than double the bonded debt load.”
DCSD BOARD REBUTTAL: None
5B Argument Against #5:
The School District plans to use the new debt for:
- Building three new elementary schools and expanding two middle schools: $216 million;
- Investments in student programming: $54 million;
- Safety and security upgrades: $16 million;
- Maintenance and renewal: $139 million;
- Fees, Management and Contingency: $25 million.
- Some of these items are current expenses, not long-term capital projects, and borrowing money from the future to pay current expenses is not smart financial policy.
DCSD BOARD REBUTTAL: “The District says that 5B is for capital investments only and not operational expenses. Those investments are not within the current capacity of the district’s budget.”
TAXPAYER RESPONSE TO DCSD BOARD REBUTTAL: Investments in student programming, maintenance and renewal, fees, management and contingency, do not fit the definition of capital expenses.
5B Argument Against #6:
The School District has a long history of over-estimating its future growth
- The truth is the School District is not growing at all.
- As recently as 2015, the School District was projecting growth in the student census from 66,900 in 2015 to 78,000 by 2025.
- As of 2021, the student enrollment is 62,979, not even close to the 2025 projection of 78,000.
- In 2012, the School District’s student enrollment was 63,114, so in 10 years, the School District has not grown at all.
- In the last 10 years, the population of Douglas County has increased 26% from 295,000 people to 373,000 people, but the School District student enrollment has been flat in those same 10 years.
- In 2021, the student enrollment declined by 4,326 students, some of which was pandemic-related; but the School District is also alienating its customers – the parents.
DCSD BOARD REBUTTAL: The DCSD responded that the district covers 84 square miles or about 2/3rd the state of Rhode Island. There are areas of significant growth and areas of significant decline. They need to address both challenges, and unfortunately, they can’t pick up schools from declining areas and move them to where they are more needed.
TAXPAYER RESPONSE TO DCSD BOARD REBUTTAL: The DCSD did not address the long history of over-stating growth expectations, which is a fact. From 2012 to 2021 the enrollment of the DCSD grew 63,114 to 62,979, essentially 0% growth. However, the Instructional Service staff grew 20% from 3,410 in 2012 to 4,090 in 2021. All other DCSD employees (non-instructional) grew 24%, from 1,684 to 2,084. The DCSD Board has not effectively managed Instructional Staffing growth to parallel the growth in enrollment. Matching the growth of the demand for services (student enrollment) to the growth of resources (Instructional Staffing) is a fundamental task of managing a large enterprise like the DCSD. More money, more spending, more school construction are not the answers.
5B Argument Against #7:
Alienated parents are a deeper challenge for the School District. While DCSD has many amazing teachers, parents are concerned about “woke” ideology indoctrination in the curriculum. Public education has lost its monopoly over the parents and students. Using technology and entrepreneurism, parents now have alternatives to government-run public schools. The School District must learn to compete for students and satisfy the parents. Until that happens, student enrollment growth will be slow or flat, even down. Vote NO on $775 million of property taxes to pay interest and principal on new debt. Vote NO on Question 5B.
DCSD BOARD REBUTTAL: The School District stated that it is dedicated to promoting positive partnerships between parents and teachers in our schools. The District continues that the District follows Colorado state standards, and the District administration is absolutely not pushing any woke ideology. If a parent in our district is ever concerned about something happening in their child’s school or classroom, DCSD would encourage that parent to reach out to the teacher and discuss their concerns.
TAXPAYER RESPONSE TO DCSD BOARD REBUTTAL: The Argument Against 5B above clearly states “parents are concerned about ‘woke’ ideology indoctrination in the curriculum.” And they are. A recent national poll revealed that school curriculum is a top concern of parents. Multiple DCSD parents have connected with me regarding their concerns about “woke ideology agendas” in DCSD classrooms and extra-curricular school activities.
The bottom line is the people and businesses of Douglas County are not taxed too little. They are taxed too much. Property taxes, sales taxes, excise taxes, income taxes, vehicle registration taxes, gas taxes, gas fees, etc. all add up. Additionally, Douglas County residents are facing higher retail grocery prices, higher gasoline prices, an economic recession, inflation at a multi-decade high, a world of destabilized relationships with global powers, and dysfunctional government. Now is not the time to raise taxes on the everyday, hardworking citizens and businesses of Douglas County, Colorado.
Vote “NO” on DCSD ballot questions 5A and 5B.
Thank you so much Kim, for this very concise, informative & data filled argument against both of these bills. This is appreciated very much & shared!!
Lots of research went into these arguments against 5A and 5B. Much appreciated. Parents and taxpayers do not have the luxury of throwing more money at their need to pay their bills while costs are skyrocketing squeezing their limited budget that does not have the luxury of taxpayer funded accounts to draw upon.w upon.
Thank you for this in depth research. It will surely help voters make a more informed decision.
Not enough appreciation for all the extra property taxes that will be collected from all the new homes in Douglas County. These rapidly increasing home ownership taxpayers will surely supply a valuable source of income for the School Board (w/o 5a & 5B taxes) in which they can prioritize their needs with a budget that naturally increases by way of the increase in brand new home and home owners paying a lot of property taxes.
Hi, Evelyn. You clearly don’t understand how schools are funded in Colorado. Your claim that extra property taxes collected from new homes and increasing home values will provide additional money for the school district is untrue. Increased funding via property taxes simply results in less state funding. The size of the bucket doesn’t change. The only way a school district can increase its funding is by going to taxpayers for a mill levy increase. I recommend that you do your own research rather than taking the opinion of an uninformed, far-right talking head as gospel.
Thank you for stating this reality. As a DougCo parent, I feel distressed at the rejection of these essential ballot measures. We live in an area of new construction with zero nearby schools. Now our local school will not get built because these ballot measures did not pass. Nearby school are too crowded to accept our child. Our only notion is literally home educating our child due to over crowding. This author is ignoring the reality that our country is growing via significant building. I don’t understand how she can’t see it. Does she never drive outside her bubble? Our teachers are paid nothing. It’s embarrassing that our very wealthy county refuses to meet the needs of our teachers living expenses.
Bottom line it’s time to completely burn down the CO state education funding system & re-build it in a way that isn’t corrupt! Until the state issues are fixed the never ending ask for money through increased taxes will continue. Also what happened to the pot money that was supposed to “benefit our school” Douglas county hasn’t seen any of that money. I’m tired of promises of benefits to the schools if we just pay more taxes & the money never going where they say it will go. Until there is accountability in spending no more money to this broke system!
As a teacher with a heart for kids in DCSD most of us have 2 jobs in order to work here. We spend our own money to support our classrooms and our kids. We work 10-12 hours days and weekends for the kids.
Our salaries are significantly lower than minor districts
So so so sad we are so under paid by one of the richest counties in the country.