The Denver Post reports good news from Aurora – with a catch:
The Aurora school district and its teachers union have reached an agreement on a new contract that calls for a 2 percent increase in pay for all employees this coming school year.
But there’s a hitch: The school board must agree to put a property-tax hike on the November ballot to fund it and voters must approve it or else there will be no raises.
Aurora Public Schools hasn’t asked for a mill levy increase since 1990 but feels that is the only way it can fund salary increases for the 2008-09 school year, said chief personnel officer Kari Allen.
The timing isn’t good. School property taxes for Aurora homeowners and business owners already increased about 6 percent this year, thanks to Gov. Bill Ritter’s so-called mill levy “freeze.” It’s not clear yet how much these taxes will go up for 2008-09 – depending on property valuations – even without this year’s mill levy election.
Here is a case where Bill Ritter’s unauthorized tax increase may yield the opposite effect that was intended.
How, you ask? The extra property tax money raised gives slight relief to state funding for school finance, taking more money from local taxpayers to finance state government programs. In other words, Aurora homeowners and business owners are paying more in school property taxes, but their local schools see no net benefit. When the local school comes asking this fall for funds that may be needed, they have to ask taxpayers who are already taking an extra hit from Bill Ritter’s property tax hike.
Belt-tightening is affecting everyone. And Ritter may make it tougher for Aurora voters living on family budgets to agree to increase funding for local schools. But at least the Democrats in the State Capitol have more money to play with.