Wednesday, April 27, 2022

The Greeley Tribune Article: Renewal of mill levy override ‘critical’ to operations

A Greeley-Evans School District 6 financial officer said this week the renewal of a five-year-old mill levy override tax is “critical” and “foundational” to future district operations.

Chief Financial Officer Meggan Sponsler said if the tax that sunsets in 2023 is not continued by district voters, the school system that serves more than 21,000 students in the Greeley and Evans areas would face “difficult budget decisions.”

A Greeley-Evans School District 6 financial officer said this week the renewal of a five-year-old mill levy override tax is “critical” and “foundational” to future district operations.

Chief Financial Officer Meggan Sponsler said if the tax that sunsets in 2023 is not continued by district voters, the school system that serves more than 21,000 students in the Greeley and Evans areas would face “difficult budget decisions.”

Sponsler made her comments Monday evening during a District 6 board of education meeting in Greeley during a reply to a question from board member Kyle Bentley.

An MLO is a ballot measure that asks voters living in a school district boundary to approve the collection of additional “mills” on property taxes — above what is allowed by the state of Colorado, according to the District 6 website.

The additional tax collection is distributed to the local schools, and it’s the only way a school district may collect additional operational dollars.

Since the MLO was approved in November 2017, Sponsler said District 6 has spent an average of about $17 million in each of the last three years with the funds.

Following Sponsler’s update presentation on the MLO — as part of its role in the district’s strategic plan known as Innovation 2030 — Bentley asked Sponsler if she thought the voter-approved tax needed to be extended.

Bentley said he’d been receiving questions about the MLO, and he added he was aware it’s scheduled to end in the next couple of years.

With the sunsetting of the MLO at the end of 2023, District 6 is in a “discussion phase” on whether to run a renewal election this year or wait until November 2023, District 6 Chief of Communications Theresa Myers said Tuesday afternoon.

The district board of education will decide if a measure goes back to voters to continue the MLO, Myers said. If approved, the renewal would not begin until the current MLO sunsets.

“My perspective is this is absolutely critical to the function of the district and all of the objectives set out in Innovation 2030,” Sponsler said when asked by Bentley for her view on continuing the MLO. “I think the numbers of devices, of buses, of salary increases we’ve been able to do, that should, hopefully, help people see the money is being put to use and what we’re doing with it is really foundational to the work we do in District 6.”

She said if the MLO is not continued, the district “would have some very, very, very difficult budget decisions” to make.

MLO funds were to be spent on the following key areas, according to the ballot language in 2017:

Improving safety, security and transportation; supporting academic and vocational programs; providing instructional materials and technology; attracting and maintaining a competitive workforce; and sharing revenue with charter schools on a per pupil basis.

A bond, on the other hand is the issuance of debt — like a mortgage — that must be repaid over time, Sponsler explained. The repayment comes from a voter-approved increase in property taxes.

Bonds are usually used to pay for capital expenses to replace or renovate buildings, fund new construction or make major repairs on buildings, according to the district. Sponsler said she wanted to make that distinction between the bond and MLO because the terms are often used interchangeably.

“It just is absolutely critical that this is continued beyond the seven years,” Sponsler said.