A new five-year master plan that shows how the schools in Adams 12 Five Star District can operate and improve is not linked to a property tax increase proposal on November’s ballot, according to …
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A new five-year master plan that shows how the schools in Adams 12 Five Star District can operate and improve is not linked to a property tax increase proposal on November’s ballot, according to school officials, but it shows why the taxes matter.
“We talked to so many people — 7,000 parents, staff members, community members — to build the ELEVATE plan, I think it’s been well tested in terms of our focus areas and the needs of the community,” Superintendent Chris Gdowski said.
Members of the district’s board approved the ELEVATE Master plan at their Aug. 15 meeting after a year-long series of public meetings and discussions.
A week later, at their Aug. 22 meeting, the board voted to put a request for a $27 million mill levy override on the ballot for voters in November. The board also formally voiced their support for the statewide funding measure on the November ballot, Amendment 73.
Both would put the district on a more sound footing, Gdowski said.
“We’ll be able to go faster and be more efficient achieving the outcomes we want if these measures pass,” Gdowski said.
The district kicked off work on the ELEVATE plan last fall with the goal of continuing the district’s recent academic successes. Test scores in 2016 had improved and voters had just approved a $350 million bond for maintenance and improvements.
School officials hosted several meetings with parents, faculty and neighbors of Adams 12 schools asking them what the schools have done that worked well.
Next, a team of parents, principles, officials and community members reviewed that input, summarizing their findings for a second series of meetings last spring.
It culminated in a full day summit for interested Adams 12 residents and the final plan, which school officials adopted Aug. 15.
“We want to be as responsive to the desires of our community,” he said.
The new plan identifies six areas that the district wants to focus on and improve over the next five years: preparing students for a digital-based world; tuning learning experiences to individual students; offering more learning options outside of the classroom; ensuring the schools are safe; promoting emotional learning; and making sure the teachers and staff are well compensated and well trained.
“There are things in the security space where we have already set aside dollars from the state,” Gdowski said. “We are adding more campus security officers, for example. But we can accelerate what we’ve already started to do.”
But Gdowski said improving will require investment.
The local mill levy override would generate $27 million for the Five Star District. The property tax impact would be roughly 10.5 mills., depending on state valuation. That amounts to a $280 annual property tax increase on properties valued at $360,000.
The statewide Amendment 73 would generate $60 million for the district. The funding stems from income tax on filers making more than $150,000 annually and from “C” corporations.
One area where that money would have early impact is in staffing.The ELEVATE plan calls for the district having a world class staff,and Gdowski said that would involve hiring new teachers and compensating current teachers.
“One of our important, must-do areas is on the staffing side,” he said. “We live in a state where the cost of living continues to grow more expensive and we are surrounded by districts that are much better resourced than we are. So investing in staff, so we can recruit a and retain the best staff, that’s one of our top priorities.”
Ballot measure matters
This would be the first time the district has asked voter for a tax increase since 2014. That year., voters turned down a $15 million mill levy override and a $220 million bond package. The district’s last successful mill levy override was in 2008, according to district spokeman Mark Poshak
“We have a new community driven plan now and this is the direction we think the community wants to head,” Poshak said. “We want to get there sooner and in a good way and funding support will help us do that.”
And Gdowski said the community’s conditions are different than they were in 2014.
“We are now in a spot where it seems there is a greater trust and confidence and support of where our board is headed,” Gdowski said. “I believe the local economy is better than it was then and people are more optimistic in their financial circumstances than they were four years ago.”
The district itself is in a different place, as well, he said.
“The third piece is that we have demonstrated consistently that our students’ academic outcomes are markedly improved,” Gdowski said. “I think it’s more evident to voters now that the money we have is being invested wisely, toward student outcomes.”
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