COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. (KRDO) - Academy District 20 is looking to override its current mill levy to get more money for teacher pay, put security officers in elementary schools, and address various school projects. However, the ballot measure would increase taxes for property owners in the area to obtain the money required to do so.
"We're dead last in the state for funding," said D20 Chief Communication Officer Allison Cortez. "The other factor is when you look at teacher pay locally, we are now third. We used to rank right around one or two, we've slipped down to number three."
If the Mill Levy Override (MLO) passes, property owners will ease into paying more taxes monthly to address those concerns.
For a home valued at $500,000, owners would pay an estimated $11.40 per month in 2024, $21.90 per month in 2025, and $29.85 per month in 2026.
"There's no sunset provision on this MLO so once a homeowner decides to vote for this tax increase. It's never going to go away," said former Moms for Liberty chair Darcy Schoening.
Schoening said she's highly involved in the education sphere of El Paso County, and she's currently creating a conservative teachers union. She agrees that teachers need to be paid more, but she doesn't think this measure is the right way to do it.
"If you look at the budget in great detail, there are a lot of areas to save money and there are ways to pull teacher pay from other areas of waste without asking the taxpayer to reach into their pockets again," said Schoening.
Schoening believes the money won't fully go toward teacher pay and will instead be mismanaged.
However, Cortez said a district accountability committee will oversee the use of the tax revenue.
Cortez said right now, D20 teachers cannot afford to live in the district where they work, and when the district looks at the budget, even painful cuts to existing programs won't get them to the amount needed to give raises.
"We could get rid of our entire Transportation Department, and it wouldn't even give a small bump to our teacher pay," said Cortez. "So the notion that there is mismanagement of money just really is not true and it's not happening here at Academy District 20."
Cortez said if this measure doesn't pass, they're unsure how they're going to catch up or compete with teacher pay in other El Paso County districts.
However, Schoening believes the district needs to try to better manage its money before taxpayers can feel comfortable passing the measure.
More information from Academy School District 20 on the ballot measure can be found here.