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Montezuma-Cortez school board passes mill levy resolution

District seeks to fund salaries, technology, buses

The Montezuma-Cortez Re-1 District School Board on Tuesday unanimously approved a resolution to put a property tax increase on the November ballot to increase funding for local teacher salaries, technology and buses.

If approved by voters in the Montezuma-Cortez Re-1 School District, the tax would raise about $2.7 million in 2018.

The ballot question asks whether the school board should be authorized to raise and spend additional property tax revenues “to provide additional funds for the district’s general operating expense,” said Kara Suckla, director of School District F, reading from the resolution.

The Montezuma County Clerk’s Office has until Sept. 8 to certify the wording of the ballot issue, and the Colorado Secretary of State must then approve it for the Nov. 7 election. Ballots would be mailed to voters beginning in mid-October.

“For the first year, it will be a set amount,” said board President Jack Schuenemeyer. “But after the first year, the amount that the district gets will be a function of essentially the tax base because even though the mill levy remains the same if the taxes increase or decrease, the amount of funds that the district gets would increase or decrease.”

The resolution focuses on higher salaries for teachers and staff, and bus and technology improvements.

“This is about the students,” said Re-1 Superintendent Lori Haukeness.

Haukeness also pointed to the district’s June 28 declaration of a critical teacher shortage.

“This is not only a Montezuma-Cortez issue, but this is actually a national issue,” she said. “As we look at the number of students that are in college or university that are designated, saying ‘I want to be a teacher’ went from almost 10 percent in 2005 to 4.2 percent in 2015.”

It’s also a market problem, she said.

“We have had teachers that have resigned from our district and are still living in Cortez, but now they are driving over to Durango because of the difference in salary,” she said. “We are 13 percent below our regional district and 27 percent below the state average.”

Haukeness also said that a needs assessment study showed the district’s technological shortcomings.

“We need infrastructure behind the wall that needs to be updated so our students can have one-to-one devices,” Haukeness said. “Every one of our students deserves the opportunity to have that technology in their hands for instruction.”

Before the board vote, Treasurer Sherri Wright discussed how the district’s lack of integrated technology hampers state testing.

“We had difficulty with PARC testing because our kids did not know how to use a computer. We talk about our kids being college-ready, but if they don’t have technology, they are not college-ready.”

The board also discussed possible long-term repercussions of ill-equipped students at a time when rapid technological change is part of life.

“The rapid change is just beyond even any of our comprehension of what it could be like a decade from now, much less in the lifetime of the children that we are serving,” Schuenemeyer said. “Almost any kind of job now requires some kind of technology.”

The mill levy also would help fund transportation needs, according to the resolution. A board assessment determined that the district’s bus fleet is in need of replacement.

“We want our students safe, we want reliable bus transportation,” Haukeness said. “Our bus fleet is much older and has higher mileage than the national standards,” she said, adding, “They are wearing out.”

According to Haukeness, the district has 20 buses, nine of which exceed 300,000 miles.

The resolution passed by unanimous voice vote.

“I would just really like to commend the board for the passing of this resolution,” Haukeness said. “This has been a conversation that has happened for many, many years.”

Oct 23, 2017
Q-and-A: Montezuma-Cortez Re-1 District School Board candidates
Aug 30, 2017
Montezuma-Cortez schools plan strategy for ballot issue outreach

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