( Photo by Denver Post file )
A long-running legal challenge to Colorado’s constitutional amendment limiting tax revenues gained significant new allies Monday: school boards from five school districts.
Earlier this year, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 10th circuit ruled that the lawsuit brought in 2011 had no standing because the original plaintiffs were not “directly injured by the law.”
The hope is that adding school districts to the lawsuit will meet that standard, and convince a district court judge that the lawsuit should proceed.
The boards from Denver Public Schools, Boulder Valley School District, Pueblo City Schools, Cheyenne County School District and Gunnison Watershed School District joined the suit.
Mike Johnson, a Denver school board member, said in a statement that since TABOR was enacted 24 years ago, Colorado has dropped to No. 42 in the nation in public funding for education, more than $2,000 per pupil lower than the national average.
“We are joining this lawsuit to restore the ability of the DPS board and the legislature to fund public education at the level Colorado students deserve,” said Johnson, who made the case to his board colleagues last month to join the lawsuit.
The Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights, or TABOR, was passed by voters in 1992. The law requires that local governments get approval from voters before raising taxes. It also limits the amount of taxes the government can collect, triggering refunds if revenues exceed an annually-adjusted cap, unless voters allow the government to keep the extra money. Continue reading →
School officials say they have standing as plaintiffs because of drop in funding
Colorado school boards who claim Colorado’s Taxpayer Bill of Rights has decimated student funding have joined a five-year legal fight to have the law dismantled.
Five Colorado school boards have been added as new plaintiffs in the original federal lawsuit filed against the anti-tax measure, also known as TABOR. The suit was filed in 2011 and led by state Sen. Andy Kerr and House Speaker Dickey Lee Hullinghorst.
Lawyers for the original plaintiffs hope to keep the suit alive with the addition of the school districts, saying the districts have legal standing to sue because they have been directly injured by TABOR.
After suffering a major setback earlier this year, the legal team trying to repeal Colorado’s Taxpayer Bill of Rights amendment is back and charging once again into the breach.
Better known as TABOR, the amendment limits state spending and prohibits tax increases without a vote of the people. It has been panned by many lawmakers and policy analysts, and some point to it as a reason why Colorado lags in education funding nationally. Still, supporters believe it is a venerable effort at direct democracy.
In 2011, a group of public officials filed a lawsuit against the 1992 TABOR amendment, which puts an annual cap on the state’s tax revenue, on the grounds that it is unconstitutional. The case is officially filed against Governor Hickenlooper, who as head of state represents the Colorado Constitution. In the intervening five years, the case’s legitimacy has been, at different turns, supported, disputed and ultimately denied.
In 2013, two years after the case was filed, the Tenth Circuit approved it, heard it and handed down a decision in favor of the plaintiffs in 2014. But Colorado’s then-Attorney General, John Suthers, challenged that decision, arguing that the plaintiffs did not in fact qualify to be heard. The Supreme Court sided with Suthers and issued an order for the Tenth Circuit to reconsider the case in light of a recent decision, Arizona Legislature v. Arizona Redistricting Commission, that mandated that plaintiffs in this kind of case must be composed of complete government bodies, not just individuals. Continue reading →
Pueblo City Schools joins in lawsuit challenging TABOR
Pueblo City Schools (D60) has added its name to a list of plaintiffs in a constitutional challenge to Colorado’s Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights.
During its regular September meeting, the board of education approved a resolution that will see the district become part of the Kerr et al v. Hickenlooper civil lawsuit, filed in 2011 in U.S. District Court in Colorado.
The plaintiffs — current and past state legislators, public officials, educators, administrators and private citizens — have sued to overturn TABOR.
“The ability of Pueblo School District No. 60 to provide adequate education services to its students depends in part on its ability to convince the Colorado General Assembly to adequately fund the Public School Finance Act,” the approved resolution declares.
Additionally, the Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights “prevents the state and its local school districts from fulfilling their constitutional obligations to adequately fund the public schools” and has impinged on the district’s ability to provide for the education of its children “due to requirements for elections to approve any increases in the property tax mill levies.” Continue reading →
How schools are funded in Colorado is so complex, there’s a joke that only five people in the state truly understand it.
Superintendent Jan DeLay in northeastern Colorado’s RE-1 Valley School District is on a mission to change that. She’s convinced that once average citizens understand why so many districts like hers are in a fiscal crisis, they’ll approve a local tax measure on the ballot to fund RE-1.
The money would be would be used to attract and keep teachers and to expand academic opportunities for students through technology, textbooks and other programs.
The last time the district passed a mill levy was in 2005, for $500,000 to update buildings, technology, textbooks and transportation. DeLay says that money is gone within the first couple of months in the new school year. Continue reading →
The Colorado economy is booming now compared to during the recent recession, but because of a 26-year-old tax policy embedded in the Colorado Constitution (informally called the Taxpayer Bill of Rights, or “TABOR”), Colorado cannot invest all of its tax revenue to make up for cuts made during those harder economic times. Instead, the amendment says that all revenue collected above an out-of-date cap must be refunded to Colorado taxpayers. Each taxpayer received a refund of $13 to $41 this year, while our state continued to cut funds for basic infrastructure and services.
EDITORIAL: The Creation of a Colorado Charter School, Part Five – Pagosa Daily Post News Events & Video for Pagosa Springs Colorado
We might mention a couple of noteworthy laws created in the early 1990s, here in Colorado. One of those laws — the Taxpayers Bill of Rights, better known as TABOR — was approved by Colorado voters as an amendment to the state constitution, in 1992. TABOR’s language attempts to restrain the growth of state and local government in Colorado by limiting spending increases. In general terms, TABOR ties the rising cost of government to inflation and population growth; increases in tax revenues that exceed the TABOR-defined limits must be refunded to the taxpayers.
A quick illustration. Between 1970 and 2000, the average value of a single family home in Colorado nearly tripled — when adjusted for inflation. (Source: U.S. Census. It more than tripled when inflation is included.) That meant that a government agency funded solely by property tax would be pulling in nearly three times as much revenue (adjusted for inflation) in 2000 as they were in 1970 — unless that agency had reduced its mill levy. (I’ve never heard of a government entity in Colorado voluntarily reducing its mill levy.)
This hypothetical government entity was not required to actually provide better service in exchange for this ‘natural’ increase in tax revenues. The extra money just flowed in, without anyone necessarily doing anything differently.
TABOR attempts to control this type of taxation growth. Colorado voters, meanwhile, can choose to increase their taxes voluntarily, to fund new local or state programs, whenever they get the urge — and in fact, that happens on a fairly regular basis. (Maybe not so often in Archuleta County.)
One of the government systems that’s funded largely by property taxes — and which might have seen its tax funding nearly triple between 1970 and 2000, had it not been for the passage of TABOR — is the state’s education system.
Not even 48 hours after the legislative session ended, the governor floated the idea of convening a special session to address the hotly debated hospital provider fee.
This drumbeat has continued in the press, with pressure from countless special interest groups who didn’t get their way during the normal 120-day session. And this all comes after the Senate Finance Committee voted down a bill to move the $750 million hospital provider fee into a separate enterprise fund for the second year in a row.
Proponents of this move want you to believe that to fix roads and help schools, this budget gimmick is desperately needed. They have grabbed onto compelling buzzwords, cleverly invoked as rationale to adopt this plan. These messages are used to pull on people’s heart strings and convince them that enterprising the hospital provider fee would somehow fix our transportation and education needs. The fact is creating this enterprise would be an end-run around our Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights (TABOR) and would not fix our long-term funding problems.
To fully understand what has been going on with our state budget, let’s look at a few numbers:
– The state budget has gone from $19 billion to $27 billion in just seven years. Continue reading →
TABOR talk will focus on K12 funding – Telluride Daily Planet: News
Stephen Elliott, Staff ReporterTellurideNews.com
The state of Colorado ranks 47th nationwide in K12 funding and, according to a recent Colorado Fiscal Institute study, spends more than $2,000 less per student than the national average.
According to education advocates, those less-than-stellar numbers are thanks in part to restrictions placed on schools by TABOR, the state’s Taxpayer Bill of Rights, a significant but little-understood amendment to the state constitution in place since 1992.
Several local groups will educate parents and taxpayers about TABOR and other K12 funding issues at an event Friday with a representative from the Colorado Fiscal Institute. The event is 1:30-3 p.m. at the Wilkinson Public Library and is presented by Bright Futures and WeR-1 (the Telluride Education Foundation).
“TABOR is having a significant negative impact on K12 funding, and it’s time to act on it in order for our schools to be fully funded,” said Kathleen Merritt, the executive director of Bright Futures, a Telluride-based nonprofit that supports children from birth through third grade. “It would behoove everyone to be informed about what TABOR is, why it came about and the impact it’s having.”
This story is part of the NPR reporting project “School Money,” a nationwide collaboration between NPR’s Ed Team and 20 member station reporters exploring how states pay for their public schools and why many are failing to meet the needs of their most vulnerable students. Colorado’s economy is hot. The unemployment rate is 3 percent. And shiny new skyscrapers are rising all over Denver as revelers pour fistfuls of cash into downtown bars and restaurants.
But no one invited Colorado’s public schools to the party.
“They have outdated technology, larger class sizes. They’ve lost the opportunity to offer certain programs. They can’t retain teachers. They can’t attract teachers,” says Tracie Rainey with the Colorado School Finance Project, a nonprofit research group. “They’ve had fewer school days, furlough days, all sorts of maintenance issues.”
The list goes on. Many educators and parents had hoped that, as Colorado’s economy roared back from the Great Recession, the nearly $5 billion that lawmakers had cut from the state’s public schools would come back with it.
They were wrong.
“I was told that an improved economy would mean cuts would continue,” says Shannon Bird. The concerned mother of two school-age children lives north of Denver and has made several trips to the state Capitol to lobby for more funding. “Lawmakers told me their hands are tied.”
How is it that the nation’s 14th richest state ranks 42nd in how much it spends per student? Especially in a year that taxpayers can expect rebate checks from the state totaling $156 million?
Most Restrictive In The Country
The simple answer is, that’s what voters wanted. In 1992, they amended the state’s constitution with something called the Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights, or TABOR.