Guest column

Update on how school district is using tax revenues

Posted

A new school year is already upon us — bringing the promise of unlimited opportunities and experiences for our students and staff.

It was a little more than a year ago that many of us in the Douglas County School District (DCSD) were connecting with you regarding our funding challenges. We are so thankful to our voters for approving a $40 million mill levy override (MLO) and $250 million bond for DCSD this past November. It was the first time since 2006 that our school district received new local dollars and they were much needed.

Over the past few months, DCSD has gotten to work putting these dollars to great use. The MLO enabled us to increase compensation for our teachers and staff, add counselors to our schools — including at the elementary school level — increase career and technical education offerings to students, enhance safety and security in our school buildings, and make much-needed improvements to our aging school buildings. It has been wonderful to see some of this work taking place over the summer.

We listened when our community said they wanted to know how the MLO and bond dollars are being used. One of the first steps we took after the passage of the MLO and bond was to form a Mill Bond Oversight Ad-Hoc Committee (MBOC) made up of 20 community members from across Douglas County. This committee monitors the progress of the improvements and programs being implemented via MLO/bond dollars, and ensures the MLO/Bond expenditures are in alignment with the ballot language approved by our voters.

What you may not know, however, is the additional work going on behind the scenes in DCSD to stretch your taxpayer dollars even further.

For example, DCSD has an incredibly high credit rating. In fact, the highest of any school district in Colorado! Our stellar credit rating, combined with the prevailing interest rate environment, enabled DCSD to sell the bonds approved by voters for an additional $40 million — with no additional taxes for our voters.

Impressive, right? Here are some other funding facts that may interest you:

• Just as we all do when buying a car or a home, our school district took advantage of lower interest rates to save taxpayer money. Over the past 10 years, existing bond issuances were refinanced, resulting in a $21.7 million savings to taxpayers.

• When you are in the market for a home improvement project, it is always wise to get more than one bid — and DCSD is no different. Over the last school year, the district saved more than $1.3 million through competitive bidding processes and negotiations.

• Finally, our team has begun actively investing operating cash when it is not needed for payroll and accounts payable, in compliance with state laws and DCSD Board of Education policy. This resulted in investment earnings more than double from prior years.

Now I want to brag on our graduates a bit — we recently handed out more than 4,700 diplomas in DCSD. Did you know that the Class of 2019 earned nearly $96 million in scholarships? We all know that every dollar counts — whether it is funding from our recent ballot initiatives, or money for our new graduates as they head into the next chapter of their lives.

I hope this provides you with a better understanding of how seriously we take our role when it comes to taxpayer funds. As a father of a current DCSD student and a recent DCSD graduate, I strongly believe our school district is an investment in our future and I will continue to do my part to ensure our fiscal responsibility remains a priority.

I am proud to serve as your DCSD Board of Education director and am honored to be part of this amazing school district!

Anthony Graziano is the Douglas County School District Board of Education director for District B, which covers a large expanse of western and southern Douglas County.

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