Now that we are all getting our ballots, we are flipping those ballots over to find question 3B. It's probably the longest item that you see on the ballot and we wanted to take a few minutes to explain why. If you have questions about this explanation, please post them in the comments section below. The district also has information on this on their FAQ website.
This is Essentially a Mortgage
The district does not have $148 million to pay for the construction of new facilities and the expansion and renovation of other facilities. So, just like any family, the district needs a financing mechanism to pay for that capital construction. Bonds are the mechanism that a public entity has to fund construction. In order to secure a bond, the district needs approval from the voters and it needs approval to make a temporary increase in property taxes to pay off the bonds.
Issue 3B allows the district to issue these bonds, then temporarily raise property taxes to make the payments. Once the amount is paid, then the tax rate goes down. The district can only raise dollars to equal the amount listed in the ballot language to pay off the bonds.
The TABOR Amendment to the Colorado constitution that was passed in 1992 has a long list of requirements for ballot measures that increase a mill levy (property taxes) to pay off construction bonds. But all of that disclosure can make for very difficult reading and might imply some things that simply are not true.
District 27J Transparency
School District 27J has won a national award for financial transparency. A citizens committee will oversee the expenditure of bond funds and the district's website has outlined--in detail--what the proceeds from the bond will fund.
Under law, the district can only raise taxes to pay the bond. And once that bond is paid off, the taxes will go back down. For instance, the ballot language says:
...And shall the mill levy be increased in any year without limitation as to rate but only in an amount sufficient to pay the principal of and premium, if any, and interest on such debt or any refunding debt when due; the authority for such tax and mill levy increase to terminate when the debt or refunding debt is paid...
This does not mean that the school district may increase property taxes an unlimited amount. It means that if the revenue obtained through the property tax payments are not enough to pay the amount of the bond, then the district can make changes to that tax. Housing assessments are not likely to go down anytime in the near future, so this is a very unlikely scenario.
The bottom line is that if bonds are sold, the district has to pay them (just like the mortgage on your house). This ensures that the district can make that payment. It is not a "blank check." In fact, this language will terminate the districts ability to raise the mill levy override once the bond is paid off.
Here is another part that might be confusing to some:
...and shall the proceeds of such bonds and the revenues from such taxes and any earnings from the investment of such proceeds and revenues be collected and spent without limitation or condition, and without limiting the collection or spending of other revenues or funds by the district under Article X, Section 20 of the Colorado Constitution or any other law?
Again, the district needs to maintain the ability to pay off the bond. This provision, which is required by law, keeps the proceeds from that bond from negatively impacting the district's ability to spend the money in the way it needs to build more capacity for our kids. It does not enable the district to increase property taxes beyond what is needed to pay the bond.
Finally, and this is important to remember, your overall property tax bill does not just go to the school district. Depending on where you live, there could be several other services that are paid through that assessment.
If you have additional questions, please post them in the comments section below.