(March 21) – The House Education Committee voted 11-1 this afternoon to approve the Debt Free Schools Act, sponsored by Rep. Diane Mitsch Bush, D-Steamboat Springs, and Rep. Jon Becker, R-Fort Morgan, which grants greater freedom to school districts to seek voter approval to fund school construction and maintenance needs through mill levies. Mill levies are tax rates applied to the assessed value of a property, both residential and commercial property.
“Right now, schools don’t have great options when it comes to funding for school construction and maintenance and often end up going in to debt,” said Rep. Mitsch Bush. “Once they’re in debt, part of their operating budget is spent on the debt service, so they have less funding for the classroom. This bill gives schools an option to pay as they go for construction costs and avoid debt.”
HB16-1354 specifies that revenue raised from such a mill levy must be used for the sole purpose of paying for the capital construction and facility maintenance needs of that district. Essentially, each district is tasked with meeting the needs of its community. School districts would be able to plan ahead for maintenance and construction costs in a designated account, while ultimately being responsible to district voters.
The 11-1 vote sends the bipartisan bill to the House floor for second reading.