Two complementary ballot measures would raise money for Denver Public Schools. 4B would allow the district to borrow money without raising taxes.
District Deputy Superintendent of Operations Mark Ferrandino said this debt measure raises money for capital expenses, including for things like fixing leaking roofs and providing a cooling system for 24 schools that don’t have air conditioning. He said just over $200 million of the money borrowed will update and maintain both old and new DPS facilities.
It will also help pay for a new school in the city’s far northeast corner and renovate the Montbello school campus. Ferrandino said DPS could build at least one elementary school in the Green Valley Ranch neighborhood. DPS spokesperson Winna Maclaren said the bonding includes $130 million for the existing Montbello campus and $58.5 million for land purchase and two new sites in the Gateway area in Green Valley Ranch.
Tracie Rainey, executive director at the nonprofit and nonpartisan Colorado School Finance Project, said this measure is asking Denver voters to extend debt they approved in previous years (specifically in 1998, 2003, 2008, 2012 and 2016). A spokesperson for the district said districts can only raise operational money for schools through mill levy increases, while money for capitol projects has to be raised through bonds.
The measures was forwarded onto the ballot by the Denver school board in August. They include recommendations from a 75-member committee including teachers, parents and students who met over a five-month period.
What the ballot actually says: It’s pretty long; here’s the full version if you want to read it.
What the ballot actually means: You’re being asked whether you want to let the district borrow $795 million and not have the debt repayment exceed $1.5 billion including the principal amount and interest. Ferrandino explained the district typically projects a higher repayment amount since it won’t know the interest rate once debt is issued (so, the repayment could end up being lower).
The money borrowed must be used for some of the stuff already mentioned like school renovations. Here are some other ways it’ll be used:
- to buy computers for students who need them for remote learning during the pandemic;
- $2.8 million to upgrade science and computer labs in middle schools (those schools will be determined based on need)
- $5.9 million to improve school safety by expanding cameras in schools, video analytics, visitor management systems and access control. $3.7 million would go toward information security.
- $6.5 million would go toward improving and expanding early childhood learning environments.
Who supports it: Denver Democrats support the measure, as does the Denver Classroom Teachers Association, the union representing DPS teachers.
Who’s against it: The Denver Republican Party opposes the measure. Party Chairwoman Kristina Cook said in a statement that voters passed a similar bond measure in 2016 for issues and needs highlighted this year. She said those needs should be addressed with money provided by the previous bonding.
Check out our comprehensive voting guide here. Happy voting!