It’s not a secret that Douglas County, especially Castle Rock, has experienced a tremendous amount of growth over the last 10 years. What some may not be aware of, however, is the impact this has had on our schools.
Based on enrollment projections for all known residential development, DCSD is expected to almost double, to nearly 118,000 students by 2040. This is why the Long Range Planning Committee (LRPC) has created a Master Plan to address the financial needs of DCSD.
This past January through March, LRPC hosted several events in order to inform the public about the needs of DCSD, as well as to receive feedback. During the most recent meeting, it was clear there are financial challenges, as many concerned parents voiced their opinions.
“We are one of the lowest funded districts on the Front Range,” explained DCSD Budget Director Scott Smith, “Often, people don’t realize that like all districts, we are only funded for operating needs, which largely go to salaries and benefits.”
Simply put, the state only provides money for teachers and educating students, not the buildings they actually learn in. Castle View High School, for example, is reaching capacity after already adding several mobile classrooms, and there isn’t money available to expand. LRPC has determined the district needs an extra $275.1 million for a 5-year plan.
“If you look at the Master Capital Plan there is $25 million in issues that could interrupt the educational program. If a boiler goes down in the winter, if a chiller goes down in the summer, if we have a major roof failure, it will impact our students,” said Rich Cosgrove, Director of Planning and Construction, “The issue with that is that they all need capital renewal almost simultaneously.”
School funding can be broken down into 3 categories: 1.) General Fund, 2.) Mill Levy Override, and 3.) Bonds.
The General Fund is funded by the state via the School Finance Act, which funds per-pupil and covers teacher salaries, costs to educate students, and school materials.
The Mill Levy Override is money raised locally by taxpayers, and is used for the District’s operating needs as well as needs that are not included in the School Finance Act. Douglas County has passed four mill levy override elections previously, and the current one is about to expire.
Bonds need to be approved by taxpayers as well, and can only be used for capital needs. The last bond that was passed was in 2006, and those funds have since been exhausted.
Though the idea of raising taxes doesn’t sit well with many, issues like investing in the future of our children, is the exception. Regardless of where you stand on this issue, don’t be surprised if you see something on the ballot in the 2016 election to help fund DCSD.
If you were unable to attend one of these meetings, here is a nice overview: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aBqG5ptp_oQ