Funding Mythbusters

Updated on Mon, 08/08/2016 - 2:55pm

Myths Surrounding Education Funding

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MYTH: Education has plenty of money because of the marijuana tax.

TRUTH: The revenues the state receives from marijuana taxes do not contribute to district operational costs. Of the tax revenue collected, $40 million is set aside into a statewide grant fund, the BEST program, to be used only for building construction. All 178 school districts in Colorado must apply for funding, with awards typically going to lower funded or rural districts. 

Retail marijuana sales are subject to the normal 2.9% sales tax, an additional 10% sales tax and a 15% excise tax to fund the BEST grant. The additional sales tax revenue goes into the state general fund (see below).

UPDATE: The Colorado Board of Education recently approved $60 million in funding through the Building Excellent Schools Today (BEST) grant program. The BEST program uses a variety of sources, of which marijuana tax revenue is one of them with a cap of $40 million. The BEST grant requires schools to match funds for projects. This year, the grant will issue $60 million while districts will provide $101.5 million in matching contributions. A full list of approved BEST Grants can be found here.

Adams 12 Five Star Schools applied for a BEST grant and won funding in 2014 to replace a section of the roof at STEM Launch, which is happening this summer. The grant covered half of the cost, while we provided the matching funds. 

MYTH: State economic growth means increased state funding for education.

TRUTH: Based on state budget formulas, just because the economy grows does not mean the percentage of state funding to districts grows. But we’re not alone. Despite growth, the state is making cuts to transportation and higher education as well, all while potentially sending small rebates to tax payers due to provisions in the Tax Payer Bill of Rights (TABOR).

MYTH: Districts can get the city or home developers to build schools.

TRUTH: While developers may provide land or cash-in-lieu of land for a school building, developers do not pay for the actual building costs. Cities may partner with the district to develop an area with a school, but also do not pay for construction.

School districts must pay for new buildings out of voter approved taxes called bonds.

MYTH: The real estate market is booming so districts must be rich!

TRUTH:  Higher taxes collected from increased property values will be absorbed into the State general fund under current budget proposals. Districts will not receive additional dollars from the state. The state will lower the percentage it contributes and raise the percentage local funds need to contribute.