Members of the “For Our Kids’ Future” committee have begun their campaign to pass Ballot Measure 4A, a proposed property tax increase to raise teacher salaries and improve school safety in Montezuma-Cortez School District Re-1.
Committee members gathered at Parque de Vida on Sept. 6 to kick off the campaign and to listen to district staff, teachers and the school board speak about the value of the measure in terms of attracting and retaining quality teachers.
The most recent attempt to pass a mill levy override in 2017 failed, and last year the school board chose not to put it on the ballot, saying the timing was off. This year they are looking to pass 5 mills, which would raise a little under $2.9 million, according to Superintendent Lori Haukeness.
If passed, the tax would go toward increasing teacher and non-administrative staff salaries. Currently, the starting salary in Re-1 for a teacher with a bachelor’s degree is a little over $31,500, according to Haukeness.
In recent years, some local teachers have opted to commute to Durango or Shiprock, New Mexico, which both have significantly higher starting salaries. Durango’s starting salary is $40,000 while a first-year teacher in Shiprock’s Central Consolidated School District can earn $41,000.
By raising salaries, Re-1 hopes to recruit and retain good teachers, which would decrease the district’s teacher turnover rate and increase the pool of experienced instructors. In the 2018-19 school year, the Re-1 turnover rate was about 24%, compared with a statewide rate of approximately 16%, according to Haukeness.
The property tax increase will also go toward new security measures, such as paying for law enforcement security for after-school events, assisting with funding school resource officers and funding a part-time school safety specialist.
Buses and technology would not be funded through this measure. At the kickoff event, Re-1 school board President Sherri Wright told the crowd that the district has grant funds to address these needs, but grant funds are not available for salary increases.
November ballots are expected to be mailed beginning Oct. 11.