Guest column

An update on how schools are spending voter-approved funds

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Last November, members of the Douglas County community voted yes on ballot measures 5A (mill levy override) and 5B (bond) in a show of support for the 68,000 students and 8,100 staff members in the Douglas County School District. As promised, here is an update on how your tax dollars are being spent.

5A — Mill levy override ($40 million)

Mill levy override (MLO) funding is generally used for operational needs such as salaries, staffing and student programming. Douglas County will collect the $40 million through property taxes each year.

Did you know that this tax increase is slightly lower than what was estimated and communicated prior to the election? DCSD was conservative in estimating assessed valuation across the county, as we would rather see a lower tax impact to individual homeowners than what they expected. The passage of 5A will result in a property tax increase amounting to an additional $43 per $100,000 of assessed home value for Douglas County homeowners.

Here is a look at how MLO funds have been utilized since the election:

• Compensation

There will be $17 million used for staff compensation and benefits (excluding superintendent and cabinet). DCSD is using these funds to make a positive impact on our employees regarding compensation. This helps begin to narrow the gap between our school district and neighboring districts, but we know there is still work to do and this process is ongoing.

It is important to note that some DCSD staff also received pay increases in the months leading up to the passage of 5A. In addition, DCSD’s licensed staff (including teachers) who were continuously employed by DCSD since 2008 also received increases to compensate them for years in which they may have experienced a pay freeze. These adjustments were paid out at the beginning of the 2018-2019 school year. Each of these increases was taken into consideration when creating the compensation plan to be paid with MLO dollars.

• Mental health resources

There will be $3.5 million used to add counselors at the elementary school level.

There will be $2.5 million used to reduce the middle and high school counselor-to-student ratio in DCSD.

• Career and technical education

There will be $2 million used to increase career and trade-focused student programming, and to hire certified staff members for Career and Technical Education courses.

• School-level funding

There will be $7 million going toward school-level funding.

These funds will be distributed depending on individual school needs. This includes increasing funding for students who qualify for free or reduced lunch, and adding money for small schools.

• Charter schools

Approximately $8 million of the MLO was passed through to DCSD charter schools on an equal, per-pupil basis.

5B — Bond ($250 million)

As 5B was a no-new-taxes bond, homeowners will not see increased taxes for that ballot measure. 5B allows DCSD to sell $250 million in bonds to generate one-time funds for capital needs such as security upgrades, facility repairs, classroom furnishings, buses and technology.

DCSD set a budget that addresses a portion of Master Capital Plan needs at all schools built before 2008 (including charter schools), in addition to technology, furniture, support facilities, transportation and many other district-wide improvements.

DCSD will soon identify contractors to help with pre-construction efforts. Additionally, DCSD is identifying vendors for roof replacements, carpet replacements, athletic field improvements, bleacher replacements, fire alarm system upgrades, door hardware security upgrades and mechanical control upgrades. Much of this work will take place this summer, when schools are mostly empty.

Mill Bond Oversight Committee

DCSD is in the process of forming a community Mill Bond Oversight Ad-Hoc Committee (MBOC). The committee will be made up of community members who will ensure MLO/bond expenditures are in alignment with ballot language approved by voters and periodically report to the Board of Education the status of expenditures.

We are committed to keeping you updated on how mill levy override and bond funds are being used in DCSD. Please continue to visit www.dcsdk12.org/funding for the latest information.

Again, thank you for your support of our students and staff!

Thomas S. Tucker, Ph.D., is the superintendent of the Douglas County School District.

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