(Jan. 27) – The legislative Joint Budget Committee carved out a victory for Colorado’s students today, boosting education funding by $24.5 million in the current budget year and creating a pathway for more sustainable funding for K-12 education in future years.
“We dedicated almost $25 million to reduce the ‘negative factor’ in the current budget year,” Rep. Millie Hamner, D-Dillon, chairwoman of the JBC, said after it voted to approve the supplemental budget request. “In addition, instead of increasing the ‘negative factor’ by $50 million as proposed in the governor’s 2016-17 budget, we’re setting the stage to invest an additional $40 million in 16-17. We still need to work hard to sustain this effort and balance our budget, but today we did good work for our students, parents and teachers.”
The Colorado school finance formula sets statewide funding levels for schools, which are met through a mixture of local property tax dollars and state funds. New information was presented to the JBC today showing lower-than-expected student enrollment, higher-than-expected local assessed property values and falling mineral lease revenues from declining oil and gas activity. The net result: an opportunity to reduce the “negative factor” and immediately increase per-pupil funding to schools.
Instead of cutting $24.5 million from student enrollment-based distributions to school districts, the JBC decided to reinvest that savings back into the K-12 funding formula, increasing per-pupil funding by $18 and reducing the “negative factor” for the current budget year.
The committee members also set a goal to keep the negative factor flat for the upcoming budget year. They intend to hold the revenue from higher local assessed property values to fill the education funding gap that we are facing in 2016-17, and ultimately chart a course towards more sustainable K-12 education funding in the future. This will help districts create their own budgets with more predictability and more revenue, allowing them to make long-term investments in quality teachers and learning experiences for students.
“The alternative was a bigger one-time infusion of money for our schools, with a budgetary cliff looming next year,” said Rep. Dave Young, who also sits on the JBC. “That’s rollercoaster funding. That’s not the way to build a sustainable K-12 program.