A plan to make moderate fixes to Westminster schools was leading by a thin 2.1 percent margin Tuesday night. As of midnight Nov. 7 Westminster's Public Schools' $9.9 million mill levy override was …
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A plan to make moderate fixes to Westminster schools was leading by a narrow 2.1 percent marginTuesday night.
As of midnight Nov. 7, Westminster's Public Schools' $9.9 million mill levy override was winning by 345 votes.
Westminster Public School's question on the ballot would generate $9.9 million in new revenues for 2019, earmarked for better school security and safety improvements, better career technical and vocational programs and better pay for the district's teachers, counselors and staff.
It would also expand partnerships with other groups, letting the district create more programs like the Boys and Girls Club for community youth.
Board President Ryan McCoy said the board has adopted a dedicated spending plan if the override passes voter scrutiny. It includes $1 million in investments for technology, maintenance and the district's bus fleet. Another $2.3 million would be dedicated to retaining existing staff and in bringing in new teachers. Programs designed to expand career-tech education and to boost arts for kindergarten through eighth grades would see an additional $500,000.
The remaining $4.6 million would go to capital projects and construction.
McCoy said the district's board is serious about how that money needs to be spent.
“And what we've told our voters is that if we don't follow this dollar-for-dollar, this is a reason to vote us out,” McCoy said. “This is a reason to recall us.”
School board member Dino Valente said the district's campaign was challenged by the sheer size of the ballot and the number of questions on it. But voters might have been just as put-out by the length of the campaign season.
“People are just sick and tired of these never-ending elections,” Valente said. “They don't want to hear it. You can't turn on your TV without getting an ad. You can't go online without a pop-up ad. You can't read news online without ads, and people are just saturated.”
Locally, Valente said perhaps some Westminster voters angry about the city's decision to raise water rates might have taken it out on the ballot box.
But Valente said he thinks there was an anti-education trend in state politics, especially in the governor's race, and that didn't help locally.
“Walker Stapleton basically launched an assault on education and education funding in Colorado and we ran into some pockets of resistance here because of that,” Valente said. “And then, with the hot economy, people's property values are high and they've reached their saturation point with property taxes."
On the other hand, Valente said Westminster has a growing cadre of young families willing to pay to get a good education for their kids.
“They are energized and there is a positive sentiment towards the funding of education that I have not seen in a long time,” Valente said. “The economy is working in our favor, and our school district itself is in better shape than it has been in years.”
Westminster's student test scores have met the state levels, and other markers of achievement show improvement as well.
“We finally have our house in order,” Valente said. “There's a good climate in the district right now and a sense that people really want to sustain that climate.”
Valente said the vote's outcome will have school officials going back to the drawing board — and perhaps seeking help from the state. Legislators approved one-time funding last year, but locals schools will have to make cuts when that money goes away.
“There will be some very hard conversations in the near future,” Valente said. “We've been in pretty good shape financially and they legislature helped. But we're going to have to have a discussion going forward.”
McCoy said a failure of the vote would have an impact in the classroom, but the board will have to talk about.
“One thing we may have to discuss, we offer full-day free pre-k and full-day free kindergarten,” McCoy said. “It's a commitment we've made over and over but we may have to have a conversation about it. Can we afford to keep it free, or will we have to require a fee? Those are some of the kinds of conversations we'll have to have. It is going to affect the classroom, there's no doubt about it.”
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