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Academy School District 20 to seek voter approval for mill levy override in November

COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. (KRDO) -- A lack of future state funding is leading Academy School District 20 to ask voters for help this fall in raising $35 million annually for a variety of needs.

According to D-20's website. the district ranks last among 178 districts in the amount of state funding it receives per student; the website also states that D-20 has not requested a mill levy override since 2008.


"As an example, if we were to collect $20 million more next year in property tax revenue, the state's share (of the school funding formula) would be $20 million less," said Becky Allan, D-20's chief financial officer. "Our overall funding amount does not change, even though property values go up. Some people may not understand that, or be aware of it."


The district wants the additional funding to raise starting salaries for teachers and support staff; for maintenance and facility upgrades; to increase the number of armed security guards at elementary schools; and to finance educational programs at two charter schools.


D-20's website states that it has one of the lowest starting teacher salaries ($48,800) among school districts of its size (student enrollment of between 25,000 and 35,000) and ranks third in salaries in the Piles Peak region.


"We'd like to bring the starting salary up to $53,000," Allan said. "We're short 50 teachers now. Hiring and keeping teachers has been an issue since the start of the pandemic."

The proposed mill levy override, according to D-20's website, would mean an annual property tax increase of around $27 for a home valued at $100,000, and $137 for a home valued at $500,000.


D-20's mill levy request comes as many Colorado homeowners face record increases in property tax values, with median increases of 40% in El Paso and Pueblo counties.


However, D-20 says that beginning teachers, at their current salary, can't afford to live and work there.

"Personally, I'm not too concerned," said D-20 resident Rhonda Pyle. "But I understand that it's definitely a tough time to raise taxes. So, it's going to affect everyone a little differently. Am I OK with it? Personally, yes."


Micaela Tice moved to the district from Florida a year ago.

"i don't want to pay more taxes -- but at the same time, I have four kids in the school district, and to be able to have that money set aside for activities and other things that the kids need," she said.


The district also explains that it has a $300 million backlog in maintenance and capital projects, and is spending -- at most -- only a fifth of the $40 million it should be allocating for maintenance every year, according to industry standards.

D-20's fall semester starts this week.


"My hope is that every voter within Academy School District 20 (who) will see this mill levy override on November's ballot, inform themselves and take the time to be educated about it," Allan said.

It may be somewhat reassuring, she added, that all revenue generated by a mill levy override can be used only by D-20.

According to the El Paso County Assessor's Office, four other school districts in the county have filed an intent to request mill levy overrides: District 49 (formerly Falcon), Calhan, Ellicott and Peyton.

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Scott Harrison

Scott is a reporter for KRDO. Learn more about Scott here.


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