This Tuesday, Colorado voters will cast their votes on Amendment 66, which would raise $950 million in new revenue for schools through an income tax increase.
If passed, the new law would cost the average Colorado taxpayer with a median income of $57,685 about $133 per year.
Amendment 66 is a key element of the new school funding bill passed by the Colorado legislature last spring. Senate Bill 13-213 modified the older school funding formula, but it cannot go into effect without a tax increase.
If Amendment 66 is approved, average statewide per-pupil spending would increase from $6,652 to about $7,400. During the 2009-10 school year, the state spent $7,242 per student, but those numbers dropped drastically as the recession forced spending cuts.
Funding from Amendment 66 will support free full-day kindergarten across the state, and provide additional resources to reduce class size and restore educational opportunities that were cut to meet budgets.
The funding will also provide grants for innovation, additional funding for special education, gifted and talented students, at-risk students and English-language learners.
Amendment 66 also includes additional funding for charter schools.
Innovation grants would also be available.
Under the old funding system, size, cost of living and numbers of at-risk students were used to determine how much funding a district received from the state. Under SB 13-213, the cost of living component is removed from the formula and numbers of at-risk students and English language learners are given more consideration.
In Jefferson County, per-pupil funding would rise from the current $6,486 to approximately $7,112. The district estimates that between 50 to 80 cents of every dollar from the tax increase would return to Jeffco.
Supporters acknowledge that Jeffco taxpayers would pay out more than they get back, but have also pointed out that all Colorado students would benefit from Amendment 66.
“For years and years, public education in Colorado has been underfunded,” said Jeff Lamontagne, a candidate for the Jeffco School Board. “Amendment 66 would fill in some of that funding.”
If passed, income tax rates on adjusted income would increase from the current 4.63 percent to 5 percent for those with incomes up to $75,000. Those with an adjusted income above $75,000 will pay 5 percent on the first $75,000 and 5.9 percent on adjusted income above that amount.
Until 2000, Colorado's income tax rates was 5 percent.
Colorado Commits to Kids, the campaign for Amendment 66, features an income tax calculator to help voters know how the issue will affect their households.
Opponents have claimed that the money will be misused, but supporters say a transparency website will be set up so that taxpayers can see where every dollar was spent.