Greeley charter school board member unhappy with timing and information given to parents on possible MLO

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GREELEY – Opposition to a proposed Mill Levy Override (MLO) for Greeley-Evans School District 6 is surfacing even before the Board of Education has a chance to vote whether they will ask for the money for the second election in a row.

An MLO is an increase in property taxes that goes specifically to the district where voters approved it. District 6 asked for an increase in 2016, but lost by 3 percentage points. The Greeley Tribune reported that an MLO would have cost home owners an extra $164 per every $200,000 value of a home and $3,000 per every $1 million in business value.

District 6 is one of the only school districts statewide to not have an MLO.

Thursday, University Schools Board of Governors’ member Trevor Garrett said his frustration with this attempt is already starting, over plans by University to push the idea before it’s made final and for the school not being completely honest with its parents.

Garrett said he doesn’t believe all his questions have been answered. He said board members have been told to come to back-to-school-nights and hand out “pro mill levy” flyers – a violation of the spirit of campaign finance laws as cons are not also listed. In addition, Garrett said, the back to school nights are scheduled before the district’s board of education finalizes its intent, leading to possible incorrect information distributed to parents.

University flierEmails obtained by Complete Colorado show a flier created by District 6 for University that details where University would spend the money.

In 2016, the Greeley Tribune reported that District 6 broke campaign finance laws after teachers at an elementary school handed out similar fact sheets without arguments against the mill levy.

District 6 spokeswoman Theresa Myers said this instance is different.

“The Fair Campaign Practices Act does not go into effect until ballot language is adopted by the Board of Education,” Myers said late Thursday. “If and when that happens, we will fully comply with every aspect of the law. Right now we are just trying to get some preliminary information to schools at their request.”

Garrett said he doesn’t believe University is being honest with parents and he felt obligated to get the message out.

“Leadership does not force an opinion nor does it omit facts from the other side to prop up your own stance,” Garrett said. “Leadership is leading by example, being open and honest, giving both pros and cons and allowing others to make the best possible decision.”

Greeley’s Board of Education President Roger DeWitt said the board is still trying to gather information before it finalizes its intent, which is likely to come at the board’s Aug. 28 meeting. Myers confirmed it is not on the Aug. 14 meeting agenda.

DeWitt said the district has been meeting with charter schools and other community groups for a while to decide what is needed and how to move forward.

“They have been working hard to say, ‘If this is something we are going to do, we need a foundation from the charters … and how would you want to see those monies put to use?’” DeWitt said “We haven’t acted on an amount yet, We haven’t acted on a rate. There is a lot of planning for ‘if this goes, how would you process it?’”

Garrett said those kinds of indecisions are why he thinks University is acting too fast in trying to get the word out. He said Pilch met with the University board several months ago, guiding them on how to present it to their parents.

“$1.3 million per year, just for UH? I think it’s absurd,” Garrett said. “Funding education is an absolute necessity; a critical piece of a healthy economy,” he said. “However, if the stewardship of such funds is lacking, wasteful spending will ensue, and no matter how much funding is received, it will never be enough. More funding doesn’t magically equal better test results.”

DeWitt said he is optimistic the district will be able to win over the community this time. He said they have spent the last year working on improving the areas they failed at the last time.

“We had a couple of disappointing areas in the community that either didn’t vote or didn’t vote for it,” DeWitt said. “We’re trying to capitalize on the areas of town we failed to get much support. They need to hear from us.”

He said the other area they are working on is making the process of a mill levy override easier to understand.

“We need to find a way to explain it so that it makes sense, so that they can process it in non-legalese,” he said. “What’s it cost? How long will it run? And how come we have to do this?”

DeWitt said the “why” the most confusing because people think when their property valuation goes up, the added increase in taxes goes to schools, however, raises in property valuation only go to the school if it has a mill levy override because of how the state’s school finance formula works.

However, Garrett said any increase will be hard to swallow for many families across the district.

“Ultimately when there so many families struggling financially it’s hard to place the burden on their backs once again,” Garrett said. 

 

DeWitt said he believes people will understand asking for the MLO in back-to-back elections because the need has not gone away. He used Thursday’s torrential downpour of rain as an example.

“It’s my job to let people know that, hey, we’re not getting what we need to do the job,” DeWitt said. “As I’m sitting here pulled off to the side of the road, I know of three schools that roofs leak. We’ve got a lot of needs that we’ve put back, so that we can deal with other stuff. But, yeah, I’m positive; I’m optimistic; I’ve looked at the data; but it’s not a huge list. It’s an obligation for the board to explain why we think we need this and that we still think we need this, 12 months notwithstanding.”

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