Frequently Asked Questions

FAQs about school funding in Douglas County School District. Vote yes on 5A and 5B!

Q. What are the two school finance ballot questions voters will be asked to approve?

A. To address these urgent needs, the Douglas County School District Board of Education unanimously approved a resolution to place two finance questions on the ballot this fall – a $66 million mill levy override (MLO) and a $484 million bond package.If approved by the voters this fall, the MLO proceeds will be used to provide competitive wages to better recruit and retain staff – including teachers, custodians, bus drivers, andschool security support. The bond package includes security upgrades, facility improvements at every neighborhood school, urgent facility improvements at charter schools, construction of three new elementary schools, expansion of two middle schools, a facility upgrade for children with special needs, and career and technical education improvements. All capital needs are listed in the bond plan on the DCSD website.

Q. How will money raised by the bond (Ballot Issue 5B) be spent?

A. Every neighborhood school and most charter schools in DCSD will benefit in some way from the $484 million in new revenue if the bond question passes. The main elements of the bond package include: $226 million to build three new elementary schools and expand two middle schools; $145 million to address a maintenance and repair backlog that includes urgent repairs to mechanical and electrical systems, roofs, intercom systems, parking lots and playgrounds; $15.4 million in safety equipment replacements and upgrades and modifications to create more secure buildings; and $25.6 million to enhance DCSD’s career and technical education (including the trades) offerings for students. The bond also includes funding for urgent needs to support special education, information technology, athletic and activity upgrades, and buses. The bond proceeds will allow DCSD to create many cost-saving efficiencies to our school buildings. For example, energy-efficient equipment would replace old equipment, lowering DCSD’s utility bills. Keeping school roofs from leaking will save the Districtfrom having to repair damaged interiors. Voter approval of 5B is needed to address overcrowded classrooms; keep up with critical facility upgrades, repairs and maintenance; and create more secure environments for our students.

Q. Where will the new elementary schools be built?

A. If 5B passes, new elementary schools will be built in Sterling Ranch, The Canyons portion of Castle Pines and the Crystal Valley community south of Castle Rock. These new schools - in addition to added classrooms at Mesa and Sierra middle schools - will alleviate overcrowded schools in neighboring communities.

Q. Can DCSD “cut the fat” elsewhere in its budget instead of going to the voters for a bond and MLO?

A. DCSD is already running very lean. The District often spends from reserves to keep up with capital expenditures, repairs, and teacher retention. According to the Colorado Department of Education, DCSD spends $63 per student on general administrative costs, which is far lower than each of its counterparts in the Metro area – Denver ($184), Boulder ($149), Littleton ($149), and Cherry Creek ($130). In fact, DCSD’s general administrative costs comprise just .06% of its total budget.

Q. With local property taxes going up, isn’t DCSD getting more revenue?

A. Unfortunately, the increase in property taxes we are experiencing here in Douglas County doesn’t provide our schools with more revenue. Each year, under the School Finance Act (SFA), the state legislature determines the total funding allowance (funded by local property tax and backfilled by the state) for each school district. In the SFA funding model, as the local share of property tax increases, the state share decreases by the same amount so as not exceed the total funding allowance. However, state law allows school districts to request additional local funding from its voters through a mill levy override, providing funds over and above the SFA allowance.

Q. How were the expenditures in the bond and mill levy override proposals determined?

A. The bond and MLO packages are the result of considerable community input, recommendations from DCSD leadership, and spending plans unanimously approved by the Board of Education. In February 2022, DCSD convened the 24-member Mill Bond Exploratory Committee (MBEC) to make recommendations to DSCD on funding needs. These community members conducted a comprehensive 15-month process that included school visits, hours of public input and ultimately a formal report that was presented to the DCSD board of education.

Q. How do DCSD school tax rates compare with other school districts?

A. At 42.836 mills, homeowners in Douglas County pay among the lowest school tax rates in the Denver Metro area. In fact, should DCSD’s ballot issues 5A and 5B pass this November, our mill levy rate will still be lower than Denver, Cherry Creek, Littleton and Boulder Valley School Districts.

Q. Other than teachers, what other hiring challenges is DCSD facing?

A. Not only is DCSD losing great teachers to higher-paying school districts, they are also unable to fill custodian, bus driver, campus security specialist and food service positions. In this competitive market for employees, many support staff can earn higher salaries working at retail stores and restaurants. DCSD’s severe bus driver shortage, for example, means consolidating school bus routes, rotating cancelled bus routes, adding stops, and lengthening the time it takes students to get to school and home again.

Q. What specific increases will teachers and staff receive if the Mill Levy Override (5A) passes?

A. Teachers will receive, on average, a 9% increase. Support staff, including education assistants, custodians, bus drivers, and kitchen staff will receive a 9% increase. All other regular staff will receive a 7% increase.

Q. Can DCSD just add more modular classrooms to prevent overcrowding?

A. Modular classrooms are not part of the District’s long-term strategy to address our growing student population. DCSD uses tailer-like mobile classrooms to provide temporary additional capacity at some schools. However, the number of additional seats provided by these mobile classrooms is very limited. Also, these structures are not ofthe same quality as permanent construction. They are made of plywood, not as well insulated as a school building, and often have no restrooms or drinking fountains.

Q. What happens if the voters don’t approve 5A and 5B?

A. If ballot questions 5A and 5B fail, our schools will continue to lose experienced, qualified teachers to surrounding school districts, additional safety and security measures may be postponed indefinitely, and DCSD’s school maintenance and repair backlog will continue to grow. The loss of and inability to recruit quality staff will eventually degrade the quality of our schools and our home values. Cherry Creek School District pays teacher salaries that are on average 32% higher than what DCSD can afford. Teacher pay gaps with Cherry Creek and other districts means DCSD will have to consolidate classes at schools with fewer teachers. Other consequences include continued increase in class size; inability of DCSD to expand safety and security programs, such as School Resource Officer (SRO) coverage at elementary schools; and continued bus transportation rationing.

Q. Besides the MBOC, what other volunteer advisory committees inform the work of DCSD?

A. In addition to the MBOC, there are dozens of community volunteers who leverage their professional expertise on behalf of our schools via three other advisory committees. While the Board of Education and the Superintendent have ultimate responsibility for the financial condition of DCSD, the professionals who sit on these committees make recommendations. The Long Range Planning Committee (LRPC) is comprised of over 20 citizens who participate in development of the District’s annual master capital plan. The LRPC produces a detailed analysis of current and future needs of our schools. The Fiscal Oversight Committee (FOC) is composed of financial experts who provide guidance on the financial well-being of DCSD. The FOC makes recommendations on DCSD’s accounting, banking, financial reporting and operating and capital budget. The District Accountability Committee (DAC) helps collect feedback from School Accountability Committees and advises the BOE on spending priorities, school improvement, and more. The charter school community is represented on these committees.