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School district receives PILT funds

In light of deep budgets cuts for K-12 funding mandated by the state — over $1.3 million this fiscal year and an additional $1 million plus possible for the next fiscal year — the Archuleta School District 50 Joint received some welcome relief from the Archuleta County Board of County Commissioners at the district’s Tuesday night meeting of the board of directors.

Addressing the board, Archuleta County Administrator Greg Schulte said that the district would be receiving over a half million dollars in PILT (Payment in Lieu of Taxes) funding.

“Of the over $606,000 the county will be receiving,” Schulte told the board, “with 15 percent going to Title II and Title III projects, the school district will be receiving about a half million dollars.”

With $515,496.95 going to area schools (about a 4 percent cut going to Ignacio schools), the board was delighted with Schulte’s news regarding the PILT funds.

The PILT program provides funding to counties to offset lost property tax revenue from nontaxable public lands. Since counties must still provide services to public lands like road maintenance and construction, as well as firefighting and police services, PILT helps to pay for county services that would otherwise be funded by property taxes.

While federal law requires 85 percent of PILT funding to go to Title I projects (roads and schools), with a minimum of 25 percent required for school funding, the BoCC determined it would allocate the entire 85 percent to the district.

This is the third year that the district has received PILT dollars from the county.

The county’s largesse could not have come at a better time. With the aforementioned budget crisis hitting the district hard with staff and program cuts, board members also addressed the potential financial impact of the ballot initiatives going before Colorado voters in November — Amendments 60, 61 and Proposition 101 (see Page 1 for detailed explanations of those measures).

Presented with a resolution drafted by the district’s attorney Darryl Farmington, the board was told by District Superintendent Mark DeVoti that, “We can, as a board, urge voters not to vote for 60, 61 and Proposition 101.”

In fact, the Fair Campaign Practices Act under CRS 1-45-117(1)(b)(III)(A) and (B), allows the board to advocate for or against any ballot measure placed before the voters and can urge voters to vote either for or against a ballot measure.

In fact, that is what the board did. Speaking against the measures (specifically, arguments made in support of Amendment 60), DeVoti said that, “If the state doesn’t have the money, it’s not going to schools,” pointing out how, under a constitutional mandate for a balanced budget, the state rescinded well over $200,000 in district funding during the 2009-2010 fiscal year.

Among the arguments listed in the resolution:

• “Three measures appearing on the November 2010 statewide ballot would significantly damage Colorado’s school districts...”

• “Amendment 61 eliminates any practical means for school districts to make and finance future capital improvements...”

• “Amendments 60 (and) 61 would slash at least $1 billion annually in state taxes, cutting in half the property tax dollars schools currently receive...”

• “Proposition 101 ... would devastate Colorado’s ability to maintain safe roads and bridges and significantly reduce funds currently used to assist schools...”

• “The cumulative and destructive nature of the three measures ensures ... little to no economic growth for the state and a steady decline in property values and erosion of the state and local tax base, which will have an additional negative impact on public schools...”

With no further discussion by board directors, the board passed the resolution with a unanimous vote, falling in line with every school district in the state that has addressed the measures and voted to oppose the ballot measures.

The board has good reason to oppose the ballot measures: although the PILT dollars give the district a buffer of about $500,000, that gift (not available to most school districts in the state) would be more than negated by the estimated $535,084 budget shortfall the district’s budget would suffer just due to the passage of Proposition 101. It is estimated that the district could lose an additional $4 million in funding from the state, should Amendment 60 pass.

In the board’s eyes, while PILT money is very, very good, Amendments 60, 61 and Proposition 101 are much, much worse.

jim@pagosasun.com