Legislative Alerts

This update informs members about breaking news or urges immediate action on issues of importance to local school boards. 

June 18, 2021

June revenue forecast — strong revenue growth and TABOR refunds

The June revenue forecast was released on Friday, June 18. State revenues have been growing more strongly than forecasted in March — the growth has been so strong that TABOR refunds will be required for the 2020-21, 2021-22 and 2022-23 budget years. The following slides are from the Legislative Council Staff presentation. 

A few highlights from both the Legislative Council Staff (LCS) and Office of State Planning and Budgeting (OSPB) presentations to the JBC:


  • Retail sales have surpassed pre-recession levels and leisure and hospitality are catching up
  • 66 percent of lost Colorado jobs have been recovered
  • A continuation of the gaps between high- and low-income earners

  • Federal stimulus payments created overall income gains, but those effects are waning
  • Inflation has increased, but that may be temporary
  • Forecast risks remain high, both positive and negative 


  • The economy continues to improve but employment is lagging
  • Colorado is outpacing the nation in people returning to work
  • Inflationary increases are temporary
  • Agrees that risks to the forecast remain high

You can access the presentations at the following links: 

May 28, 2021

HB21-1325, Funding Public Schools Formula, would change school funding formula

With less than two weeks to go in this year's legislative session and with the looming deadline for school districts to set their budgets for next year, a new bill HB21-1325, Funding Public Schools Formula, was introduced yesterday. The bill summary and fact sheet from the bill sponsors — Reps. McCluskie and Herod / Sens. Zenzinger and Rankin — state the following:

Beginning in the 2021-22 budget year:

  • Adds students eligible for reduced-price lunch to students who are eligible to receive at-risk funding.
  • Removes English Language Learners (ELLs) from the current definition of at-risk pupils and creates a new funding factor to the formula equivalent to 8 percent of per pupil funding multiplied by ELL enrollment.
  • Creates the Legislative Interim Committee on School Finance, which will meet during the 2021 and 2022 legislative interims and the 2022 and 2023 legislative sessions as necessary. The committee consists of four senators and four representatives, and must consider issues including: the current and alternative methods for identifying economically disadvantaged students, the appropriate methods to address district cost of living and small, remote and rural school district funding and funding equity related to revenue collected from total program mill levies and voter-approved mill levy overrides.

Beginning in the 2022-23 budget year:

  • Creates the Mill Levy Override Match Fund and directs the Department of Education (CDE) to calculate a match amount for any school district that levies 27 total program mills and that would have to levy more than 30 mills to reach the maximum amount of mill levy override revenue permitted.

Worth noting, a fiscal note is forthcoming and will be added to the Legislative Alert on the website once it is available. If approved HB21-1325 will change the allocation of the additional resources provided through HB21-1164, Total Program Mill Levy Tax Credit (as covered in the May 24 Legislative Alert). 

CASB will keep you updated and stay tuned for digital advocacy alerts as we enter the final days of this legislative session.

May 24, 2021

Colorado Supreme Court rules on HB21-1164, Total Program Mill Levy Tax Credit

In one of the most anticipated rulings in recent memory, the Colorado Supreme Court has ruled that HB21-1164, Total Program Mill Levy Tax Credit, is constitutional and does not violate the Colorado Taxpayer Bill of Rights, or what is commonly referred to as TABOR. This clears the way to restore some semblance of balance between state and local funding for schools.

This decision has been a long time in the making so some background information may be helpful. In 1992, Colorado voters approved TABOR, which limits the creation of new taxes or tax increases without the approval of voters. Starting in approximately 1994, local school districts went to their voters to ask if the school district could retain tax revenue that was already being collected when that revenue came in above the TABOR-mandated limits. This is referred to as “debrucing” and has been a common practice. In fact, 51 out of the 64 counties in the state and 230 out of the 274 municipalities in Colorado have all debruced since TABOR’s inception in 1992. Of the 178 school districts in Colorado, 174 were successful in debrucing, (obtaining voter approval to allow them to retain the additional taxes). However, the Colorado Department of Education (CDE) erroneously lowered mill levies despite voter approval to debruce.

Fast forward to 2009 when the Colorado Supreme Court agreed to hear a case now commonly referred to as the “Mesa case”. The case involved the County Commissioners of Mesa County and several other entities, including CASB, asking the Court to rule on the validity of the CDE directive regarding local property mills. In the Mesa case, the Colorado Supreme Court ruled that the CDE had acted erroneously in telling school districts, whose voters had approved the district to retain tax revenue above the TABOR limits, to lower their mill levies. Since 2009, the Colorado General Assembly had not created a bill to address the problem with local property mills, so the issue remained unresolved.

HB21-1164 requires CDE to adopt a schedule to correct the problem brought forth in the Mesa case and to apply it evenly across the state. The bill calls for mill levies to not increase more than one mill per year until they reach 27 mills or full funding of the local share. HB21-1164 has been “on-hold” in the Senate awaiting the ruling from the Court. The bill passed out of the Colorado House in mid-March along largely party lines. An amendment added to the bill in the House requires the General Assembly to allocate any new funding raised to be used for education as long as the Budget Stabilization factor is in place. This is the text from the official legislative description of the bill:

“The bill specifies that, until the general assembly determines that stabilizing the state budget no longer requires a reduction in the appropriation for the state share of total program, the general assembly shall annually ensure that the savings to the state share that occurs as a result of the decrease in the temporary property tax credits is appropriated to fund a portion of the state share of total program.”

The revised fiscal note on the bill - Appendix B - provides the estimated additional funding to each district under the new schedule. The bill will provide approximately $90 million in funding for the 2021-22 fiscal year and funding will be distributed through the School Finance Act. HB21-1164 was passed today and is awaiting signature by the Governor.

May 12, 2021

School Finance Act is introduced

The Colorado General Assembly has introduced the School Finance Act (SFA) for the 2021-22 school year. SB21-268 this year is sponsored by Senators Rachel Zenzinger and Paul Lundeen. This year's version of school finance is poised to move quickly as the General Assembly works to wrap up the 2021 Legislative Session. 

Of note to CASB members are:

  • Inflation changes increase per-pupil funding by $141.67 for a base per-pupil funding of $7,225.28

  • Returns the Budget Stabilization (BS) Factor to pre-COVID pandemic levels at $572 million

  • Increases funding for At-Risk students by including students who receive “reduced” school lunch as well as the currently funded students who receive “free” school meals 

  • Additional funding for English Language Learners (ELL) students is included in the bill 

    • To fund these increases the bill appropriates approximately $77 million from the State Education Fund

  • Section 12 of the bill extends the timeline local boards of education have to adopt a budget for the 2021-22 fiscal year. 

(a) A board of education shall prepare and submit a proposed budget in accordance with section 22-44-108 not later than June 23, 2021;

(b) After submission of a proposed budget, but not later than June 25, 2021, the board of education shall publish a notice of proposed school budget.

The bill includes the restoration of funding for several grants that were cut in the 2020-21 SFA. These include:

  • $800,000 and 0.6 FTE for the ninth-grade success program;

  • $375,807 for the school leadership program;

  • $280,730 for the accelerated college opportunity exam fee grant program; and

  • $250,000 and 0.3 FTE for the John W. Buckner Automatic Enrollment in Advanced Placement Courses Grant Program.

Included in the bill is the removal of the cap on the counselor grant program and makes available $2 million to fund the grant. As CASB members know counselors have played an even greater role in students’ lives during the COVID health pandemic. 

CASB is closely monitoring and evaluating the following provision that would grant the State Board of Education the authority to override a local board’s proposed revisions to an existing innovation school or innovation zone plan. 

Section 14:


Legislators also included a moratorium on Boards of Cooperative Education (BOCES) from opening a physical school in a school district that has not authorized such a school. Recently, CASB was alerted to a situation involving the Education Reinvisioned BOCES (ER BOCES), which has established a new pathway to open brick and mortar public schools located in school districts that are not part of the BOCES without consulting or receiving district consent. A recent court case ruled in favor of the ER BOCES, based on language in Colorado law that essentially creates a loophole. Given the ambiguity in the current statute, Section 16 of the bill expressly states that a BOCES that intends to locate or operate a BOCES school within the geographic boundaries of a school district that is not a member of the BOCES during the 2021-22 school year to obtain written permission from the school district in which the school will be operated or located.

The bill is scheduled to be heard in Senate Education on Thursday, May 13, at 1:30 pm. The committee hearing audio is available online and remote testimony is available by signing up at this link.

March 19, 2021

March revenue forecast

Prior to the COVID health pandemic, the Colorado economy was among the best in the nation. Then, approximately one year ago, the restrictions related to the health pandemic began to kick in and the economy ground to a halt. Now, a year later, it appears the strength our state's economy possessed prior to the pandemic has helped it weather the effects of the pandemic.

The Colorado General Assembly’s Joint Budget Committee (JBC) received the March 2021 quarterly revenue forecast on Friday March 19, 2021. The JBC receives two separate forecasts, one from the Legislative Council Staff (LCS) and the other from the Governor’s Office of State Budget and Planning (OSPB). The forecast documents are available here for the LCS and here for the OSPB.

In March 2020, state economists predicted significant issues with the then unknown impacts of the COVID-19 virus. The Colorado General Assembly during the shortened 2020 Legislative Session took steps to cull the budget to account for these projected reductions. This budgetary belt tightening has put the state in a much better position one year later as the state continues its recovery from the COVID-19 health pandemic. While the economy is not anywhere near as robust in 2021 as it was in pre-COVID 2020,  it does appear the worst of the COVID-19 related recession is behind us. The Legislative Council Services forecast highlights:

“For broad measures of U.S. and Colorado economic activity, the worst chapters of the pandemic-induced recession appear to be behind us. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has now approved emergency use authorization for three vaccines effective against the virus that causes COVID-19, and the number of Americans immunized against the disease is growing daily. With vaccine distribution in full swing, confidence among businesses and consumers is on the rise. The labor market recovery lost some of its momentum toward the end of 2020, but the most recent figures suggest that employment has begun to grow again, albeit modestly, to begin 2021.”

Unfortunately, the overall economic good news is not applied equally across all areas of the state. While high-wage employment is at pre-recessionary levels, low-wage workers remain severely impacted. This chart from the OSPB forecast presentation provides evidence of this disparity.


Significant decreases in the restaurant and tourism industries remain high. Coloradans who work in these industries have borne the brunt of this ongoing decline with heavily reduced wages and much higher unemployment rates.

Both the forecasts from the LCS and the OSPB projected significant risk to the state's economic future. These risks include higher than expected inflation, unknowns in federal monetary policy and the potential impacts of virus variants that are resistant to current vaccines. 

What does this all mean for CASB members as they finalize school budgets in the coming months? It depends on who you ask. Many feel that the good economic news and influx of federal relief funds should help schools land in a good spot as they continue — or return to — in-person learning. Others believe that the ongoing structural problems with how Colorado allocates funds to education will only exacerbate the current problems schools face. 

The 2021-22 budget and school finance act will come into better focus in the coming weeks as the JBC and the full General Assembly get to work on the state budget — also referred to as the Long Bill — and the School Finance Act. The schedule for this action is:

  • Week of March 22 — the JBC finalizes the Long Bill
  • Week of March 29 — the Long Bill will be debated in the Senate
  • Week of April 5 — the Long Bill will be debated in the House
  • Week of April 12 — the JBC reconciliation, House and Senate floor votes, and bill sent to the Governor

The CASB website provides several ways to track bills and we encourage you to follow CASB social media channels for the latest updates. 

Legislative updates

CMAS suspension for select grades (HB21-1161)

This week the Colorado General Assembly passed, and Governor Polis signed, HB21-1161 — Suspend Statewide Assessments For Select Grades. The bill would request to suspend some elements of the state CMAS testing. The Colorado Department of Education (CDE) has sent the waiver — as called for in the bill —  to the U.S. Department of Education and are awaiting their response. CASB is asking education advocates across the state to contact your member of Congress and request their support for the waivers. Follow this link for all the details and take action today. 

Contact your Congressional Delegation today

Potential changes to mill levy calculations (HB21-1164)

In another significant move, the Colorado House of Representatives approved HB21-1164 — Total Program Mill Levy Tax Credit and sent it to the Senate. The Senate passed the bill on second reading and also introduced Senate Joint Resolution 21-006 titled “Interrogatory Regarding School District Mill Levies”. The resolution, if approved by the General Assembly, would request the Colorado Supreme Court to weigh in on the issue of how property taxes for public education are levied. 

HB21-1164 would attempt to remedy a decade-old mistake by the CDE in how mill levies are calculated for schools. The case, known as the “Mesa case,” provided an opinion from the Colorado Supreme Court that CDE had incorrectly directed Colorado school districts to assess a lower number of mills. This decision by CDE was made even after the vast majority of Colorado school districts’ voters had approved a measure to allow school districts to keep revenue collected above the Colorado Taxpayer Bill of RIghts (TABOR). This complex issue is one that we encourage CASB members to learn more about. This Chalkbeat Colorado article provides some background on the issue. The CASB Delegate Assembly has a long history of supporting restructuring of Colorado Constitutional tax code.

Correction to School Board Advocate from March 12, 2021

The following statement was corrected in the “CMAS clock ticking” article in last week’s School Board Advocate: 

...the USDE also released a template to assist states in applying for waivers in regards to some aspects of accountability reporting for the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA). Given how quickly the testing window is approaching, anxiety is rising for school districts. CASB staff will keep you posted as details unfold. 

Click here to access the School Board Advocate (member login required)

December 22, 2020

Congress approves additional COVID relief

Congress has approved additional COVID relief that will assist with the impacts caused by the current health pandemic. Of note for CASB members:

$82 billion for education overall

  • $23 billion for higher education
  • $4 billion for the Governor Emergency Relief Fund. This includes a set-aside for private K-12 schools
  • $54 billion for K-12 public schools. There is no condition related to funding based on schools physically reopening and operating with in-person education

A few other areas worth highlighting include:

  • $250 million for Head Start.
  • $10 billion for the Child Care and Development Block Grant (CCDBG).
  • $7 billion to increase broadband access.
    • $3.2 billion in emergency funds for low-income families to access broadband through "an FCC fund” which appears to be a new program. This will have some positive impact on some students but will force them to compete with other interests for the funding.
    • $1 billion for a tribal broadband fund.
    • $65 million to complete broadband maps pursuant to the Broadband DATA Act approved earlier this year.

There is no dedicated funding to connect the millions of students impacted by the homework gap. Originally, there was $3 billion proposed that would have been run through the E-Rate program.

The bill is expected to be signed by the President. Details about how quickly the funds will be made available are expected in the coming weeks.

Also worth mentioning: the deadline for spending down funds through the CRF has been extended from December 31, 2020 to December 31, 2021.

General Assembly delays start

The Colorado General Assembly announced this week a delayed start to the 2021 Legislative Session. Per a media release, the House and Senate will convene on Wednesday, January 13, 2021 to address legally required actions and then adjourn until approximately mid-February. It is hoped that the delay will provide time due to the current spike in COVID cases to subside. Your CASB staff will have additional details after the winter holidays.

U.S. Secretary of Education Candidate

President-elect Joe Biden is expected to nominate Miguel Cardona as the next U.S. education secretary. Miguel Cardona is the head of Connecticut's public schools and has spent his career in education as an elementary school teacher, principal, and assistant superintendent, before taking on the role of top education official in Connecticut. 

Cardona’s background stands in stark contrast to Betsy DeVos, the current U.S. education secretary. You can learn more about his background in these recent articles:

December 18, 2020

State economic outlook better than expected, but . . .

The Joint Budget Committee of the Colorado General Assembly is one of the most influential committees under the Gold Dome. The six members of the Committee face the unenviable task every year of crafting a state budget that usually features too many needs and not enough resources. This is never more true than this year. As JBC members look towards the work of the General Assembly in 2021 the effects of the COVID-19 health pandemic are coming into focus.

The Joint Budget Committee (JBC) members were presented with some of the potential challenges when the state's December Economic & Revenue Forecast was presented. The JBC receives two forecasts, one from the Legislative Council Staff and the other from the Governor’s Office of State Planning and Budget

The Legislative Council Staff forecast report brought some good news. In general terms, Colorado’s economy has rebounded upwards from the recessionary bottom the state saw during the springtime height of the COVID virus health pandemic. The chart below highlights what is called the “K” shaped recovery to date.

The news of most interest to CASB members is related to School Finance (which starts on page 19 of the forecast). Colorado schools have seen a decline in enrollment related to the current health pandemic. Approximately five thousand fewer full-time students were counted during the state’s October pupil census. Additionally, nearly 53,000 students funded in the at-risk category can’t be accounted for. The reduction of student enrollment is something the state hasn’t seen in decades. These declines are almost entirely due to the COVID health pandemic and state economists don’t anticipate these numbers to persist. There remain questions about the future of students who have opted to “home school” or to “online” programs and when or if they will return to their neighborhood schools.. In the near term these numbers pose problems for 2020-21 and 2021-22 budgets as they relate to school finance.

The majority of funding for Colorado’s public schools is a combination of local funds and state dollars. The student enrollment decline and lower than expected revenue from local property taxes related to school finance are shown in the chart below. With the combination of reduced student enrollment and less local property tax dollars, the General Assembly potentially will have the option to fund approximately $83 million less than they budgeted for in the 2020-21 budget. 

Governor Jared Polis’s Office of State Budget and Planning forecast highlighted some additional risks to the revenue picture. These include how quickly COVID vaccines will be able to be rolled out and if additional federal COVID relief is approved by Congress before they adjourn. 

The decision now facing the General Assembly will be how to address these shortfalls. Colorado schools face a slew of additional costs as they continue to educate our students while at the same time dealing with pandemic restrictions Costs related to pandemic effects - including cleaning, staffing, and remote learning - have all been more expensive than anticipated while the majority of funds appropriated early in the pandemic to address these costs have been spent. It will be critical for CASB members to advocate for the General Assembly to not impose additional funding cuts. If you are not sure how to connect with your legislator, CASB members can access the CASB Advocacy Toolbox (login required) on the website for resources to assist you in your outreach efforts. Additionally, please consider signing a petition asking lawmakers to ensure money intended for public education be used to help our students overcome the hurdles they have faced in the past months related to the COVID 19 shutdowns.

The December revenue forecast is the final hearing for the Joint Budget Committee before they adjourn for the December holidays. The entire General Assembly is scheduled to convene on Wednesday, January 13, 2021, however the ongoing virus is likely to alter legislators’ schedules into the new year. 

Tell the Legislature:  Now would be the worst time to cut school funding. 

This year, COVID has caused a 3.3% reduction in public school enrollment. In normal times, the state has often reduced funding mid-year for districts that have lower enrollment than anticipated. But these times are not normal. 

While the number of children in school — in-person and remote — has declined, school costs have most certainly not. In fact, keeping our students and teachers safe and supported costs more now than ever.   

As supporters of public education, we are asking legislators to maintain school funding at the level passed in the 2020 legislative session. COVID may have reduced enrollment, but it has increased costs. Let our districts serve our students.

ACT NOW!  Sign the petition: 

December 3, 2020

COVID relief on the way with $382.2 million approved by General Assembly

Colorado lawmakers, called into a special session by worries about the rising economic toll of COVID-19 and congressional deadlock over additional federal relief, took the minimum required three days to pass 10 bills containing $382.2 million of state relief.

Governor Jared Polis in his official “call” for the special session, asked lawmakers to take action on the following:

  • Tax relief and direct grants to many hard-hit businesses

  • Grants to school districts to acquire the technology needed for remote learning 

  • Assistance for child care centers to help them stay open 

  • Programs used to help low-income Coloradans with housing and utility costs 

  • Replenish the state’s Disaster Emergency Fund

Of the bills approved all had bipartisan sponsorship, and all passed with comfortable margins.

The bills have finite amounts of money, and the assistance is generally time-limited. Of the total, $233 million is direct state spending and another $149.2 million is revenue the state will forego through tax forgiveness measures. The Polis administration has said revenue collections that were higher than those forecasted last spring should provide the funds needed.

Governor Polis called the special session because he believed some immediate state relief measures were needed before the end of 2020 when current federal aid expires. The Governor has an ambitious list of other pandemic-related initiatives totaling nearly $1 billion. These initiatives will require action by the newly-elected General Assembly which convenes on Jan. 13, 2021.

The bills that are likely to be of interest to CASB members are listed below. Follow this link for a full list of all the bills that were introduced, including full details and fiscal notes. 

Several bills were amended in significant ways from the introduced versions; those changes are also included in the bill tracker. 

HB20B-1001 – Sponsored by Representatives Young and Soper and Senators Donovan, Coram, and Bridges — Provides $20 million to the Department of Education for grants to school districts to increase internet access and aid remote learning. The Colorado Department of Education has committed to making the funds available within 60 days of the grants opening.

HB20B-1002 – Sponsored by Representatives Kipp, Landgraf, and McCluskie and Senators Pettersen, Sonnenberg, and Priola — Appropriates $45 million to the Department of Human Services for two grant programs to sustain child care centers and expand access to child care. School-based programs are eligible for these funds if the program is not fully funded by Federal or State funds.

HB20B-1003 – Sponsored by Representatives Cutter and Bockenfeld and Senators Story and Hisey — Modifies and expands the Department of Human Services food pantry grant program by $5 million.

HB20B-1004 – Sponsored by Representatives Alex Valdez, Van Winkle, and Herod and Senators Bridges, Tate, and Winter — Allows qualified retailers to retain state sales taxes for a limited time. The measure reduces state revenues by $92.1 million over two years.

SB20B-001 – Sponsored by Senators Winter and Priola and Representatives Herod and Sandridge — Provides direct grants and suspension of certain fees to certain small businesses, arts organizations, and minority-owned businesses, chiefly those affected by health-related capacity limitations. The fiscal impact on state revenues is $57.1 million.

SB 20B-002 – Sponsored by Senators Gonzales and Holbert and Representatives Exum and Tipper — Moves $60 million from the General Fund to cash funds supporting housing assistance programs run by the Department of Local Affairs.

SB20B-004 – Sponsored by Senator Moreno and Representative McCluskie — Transfers $100 million from the General Fund and allows its use in the Disaster Emergency Fund.

Attention now turns to the December Quarterly revenue forecast on Friday, December 18. The forecast is always important as a final check on the economy before the Legislative Session starts in January. This year the data will be especially important as Coloradans look for signs of the strength of the economy.

All CASB members are invited to attend Zoom meetings with members of the Joint Budget Committee on Tuesday, December 8, 2020 at 1:00 pm. - The Zoom meeting link is available here - and with the Governor’s office on Thursday, December 10, 2020 at 2:00 pm - The Zoom meeting link for this meeting is available here. The meetings will be recorded and made available to CASB members who are unable to attend the live meetings.

November 30, 2020

Colorado General Assembly begins Special Session

The Colorado General Assembly gaveled themselves back to work today, Monday, November 30, 2020, to take up a slate of measures in order to deal with issues caused by and related to the COVID-19 health pandemic. Using a combination of remote meeting technology and in-person committee meetings, the Legislature introduced 30-plus bills. The Special Session was called by Governor Jared Polis, who has recently tested positive for COVID-19.  

Of the 30-plus bills, we highlight a few of particular interest to CASB members:

  • HB20B-1001, Grants To Improve Internet Access In P-12 Education, has bipartisan sponsorship and would attempt to address some of the immediate needs that Colorado school districts have in providing remote learning to all students. Representatives Mary Young and Matt Soper introduced the bill to provide approximately $20 million in grant funding for school districts to purchase network equipment and secure broadband network access. The bill moved out of committee and will return to the House floor on Tuesday, December 1. Matt Cook, CASB Director of Public Policy and Advocacy, testified to the importance of the bill, but also reminded legislators that it is only a “first step, and not a complete solution” to the ongoing issues of inequitable broadband access found across our state. 

  • HB20B-1009, Prohibit Reduction Of School Funding Fiscal Year 2020-21, brought by Representative Jim Wilson, would have maintained the K-12 funding amount passed by the Legislature during the regular 2020 session, in an attempt to hold K-12 funding “harmless” if the budget has to be reduced. CASB, the Colorado Association of School Executives (CASE), and the Colorado Rural Schools Alliance submitted a letter in support of the bill. While several legislators expressed support for the concept of the bill, they didn’t feel the bill fit under the scope of items they could consider during the Special Session. CASB will be calling on our members to remind legislators of the importance of this issue when they return for the regular legislative session in January of 2021.

  • HB20B-1002, Emergency Relief Programs For Child Care Sector, provides relief for the child care industry, including school programs that are not fully funded by the state or federal government. House bill sponsors Representatives Cathy Kipp and Lois Landgraff hope that the approximately $45 million in funding will help to shore up the child care industry, which has been essential to parents who have had to continue working during the pandemic. The bill is headed back to the House floor after clearing committees on Monday afternoon. 

To assist you in tracking the bills over the next few days this bill tracker  will update automatically once the General Assembly information is posted. Your CASB staff will send additional updates as the Special Session continues this week.

November 2, 2020

Gov. Polis proposed budget prioritizes key investments to education funding

Colorado Governor Jared Polis began what is likely to be a very difficult budget season with the presentation of his proposed budget to the General Assembly. Annually, the Governor submits a budget request to the Joint Budget Committee (JBC) of the General Assembly in November. While the Governor’s budget proposal is an important document to outline the priorities of the current administration, it rarely resembles the final budget adopted by the Colorado legislature.

Governor Polis proposes significant investments in what he calls “three key elements” to restore the economy and boost the recovery efforts. These include:

  • Restoring major reductions made to key areas in FY 2020-21 and ensuring essential services across government
  • Economic stimulus that will bridge the gap to recovery and help Colorado build back stronger
  • Saving for the future

Governor Polis is quoted as saying:

“This budget lays the foundation to build a stronger Colorado through key investments in our economic recovery, saving people money on health care, expanding access to education, building climate resiliency and expanding renewable energy to enhance our way of life and to build a Colorado for all where everyone can thrive.”

CASB members should note that the Governor is proposing an increase of $902 in funding per pupil for FY 2021-22. This one-time allocation translates to $811 million in additional funding for K-12, and would set the Budget Stabilization Factor (BSF) at $572 million, reducing the current BSF of $1.17 billion to the FY 2019-20 level. This is encouraging news based on the current economic data. However, the results of several statewide ballot initiatives and the December 2020 Colorado revenue forecast will play a significant role in what the 2021-22 fiscal year budget will look like. The Governor’s budget proposal is available on the state Office of Planning and Budget website

Election Day messages you can share with your networks

It’s finally here — Election Day 2020. As there are several initiatives on the ballot that would influence funding for K-12 education, we have some prepared messages you can use on social media to remind others to vote.

  • Happy November! It's time to drop off your ballot if you have not yet voted. It's too late to mail your ballot, but drop boxes are open 24/7. GoVoteColorado.com (Click here to Tweet)
  • Visit the CASB website to learn more about several ballot initiatives that affect schools and their funding. https://www.casb.org/2020-ballot-issues (Click here to Tweet)
  • Ballots are due by 7pm on Tuesday, Nov 3. GoVoteColorado.com provides answers to common questions. (Click here to Tweet)
  • Today is the last day for public education advocates to get their ballots in. Colorado students are depending on us! GoVoteColorado.com (Click here to Tweet)

CASB will send out an election recap once the dust settles.

September 20, 2020

September 2020 Revenue Forecast

State economists presented the September quarterly revenue forecast to the Colorado General Assembly Joint Budget Committee (JBC) on Friday September 18. The September revenue forecast provides state lawmakers with their first glance at economic activity for the new fiscal 2020-21 year. As always, the JBC received forecasts from the Legislative Council Staff (LCS) and the Office of State Budget and Planning (OSPB). The LCS forecast documents and the report from the OSPB are available through the links below.

The big takeaway from the forecast is that Colorado’s economy has whipsawed from the extreme down turn related to the initial COVID-19 restrictions to a much better outlook during the late summer months. This “V”-shaped change in economic data — representing a steep decline and nearly equal rebound — has led state economists to voice caution to JBC members.

The level of uncertainty in future economic growth is significant and any number of factors could once again pull the state’s economy down, such as:

  • Strong resurgence of COVID-19
  • Additional waves of layoffs
  • Pullback in consumption and investment

The months immediately after the March COVID-19 restrictions pulled the Colorado economy and the nation’s economy into the steepest recession on record. The United States Gross Domestic Product fell nearly 32% in just one quarter of the year. That plunge has been offset by improving economic activity during the summer months. State economists were quick to point out that much of the rebound was driven by consumer spending in part from a massive amount of federal dollars sent directly to citizens via various stimulus packages. There remains much uncertainty in the ability of Congress to agree on a future stimulus package.

Before COVID-19, Colorado’s unemployment rate was historically low. However, the results of job loss related to the state mandated COVID-19 pandemic restrictions forced huge numbers of workers out of their jobs. The Colorado Unemployment Insurance Trust Fund became insolvent in August and the state reported more than 200,000 jobs were lost since the March health restrictions went into effect. Job growth continues to fall behind the rate of pre-COVID 19 job creation. This is especially true in several sectors of the economy like jobs related to the hospitality industry.

The outlook for Colorado K-12 education is unclear as much of the data will center on the October student pupil count. However, Legislative Council Staff projects that the state will need approximately $143 million more for K12 education in the 2020-21 fiscal year. This figure does not take into account the potential approval or failure of any November ballot items that will influence state revenue.

Keep your eye out for the September edition of the School Board Advocate which will be arriving in your email next Friday, September 25, for a complete report on the September revenue forecast.

 LCS forecast 
OSPB forecast


June 15, 2020

In this issue:

  • HB20-1421 — Delinquent Interest Payments Property Tax bill may result in less property tax revenue 
  • HB20-1427 — Cigarette Tobacco And Nicotine Products Tax would provide additional funding for rural Colorado schools
  • HB20-1418 — School Finance Act passed on party lines
  • HB20-1420 — Adjust Tax Expenditures For State Education Fund legislation on way to Governor for signature
  • SCR20-001 passed — Gallagher repeal will be on the November ballot
  • Sign up for the CASB Legislative Wrap-up Webinars next week 

HB20-1421 — Delinquent Interest Payments Property Tax bill may result in less property tax revenue 

As a result of HB20-1421 passing and signed into law, school districts should prepare for the possibility of less property tax revenue by signing up for the interest-free loan program. Districts interested in the state’s interest-free loan program now have until Wednesday, June 17, to state their intent to participate.

Based on HB20-1421, under certain conditions, this bill allows a board of county commissioners (board) or a city council to temporarily reduce, waive, or suspend delinquent interest payments for property taxes.

Specifically, upon approval of the county treasurer, such authorization applies to a county or city that, between January 1 and June 1, 2020, collected less than 90 percent of the amount of property tax revenue that was collected between January 1 and June 1, 2019. The bill also requires a board or city council to notify a local taxing jurisdiction of the intent to reduce, waive, or suspend delinquent property tax interest payments. If a local taxing jurisdiction would be unable to meet its bond payment obligations after the proposed reduction, waiver, or suspension, the local taxing jurisdiction must notify the board or city council.

Finally, the bill requires a county treasurer to advance property tax payments, up to 90 percent of the amount due, to local taxing jurisdictions to assist the jurisdiction in the payment of bonded indebtedness payments and monthly operation costs, if the jurisdiction demonstrates a financial need due to the waiver or reduction of interest payments.

HB20-1427 — Cigarette Tobacco And Nicotine Products Tax would provide additional funding for rural Colorado schools

HB20-1427 was introduced late in the session — last week — to increase sales taxes on cigarettes and for the first time nicotine vaping products. If approved by voters in November, the bill would send $25 million to Colorado rural schools in the 2020-21 budget year and $49 million to the State Education Fund. Funding would also be directed to preschool students and tobacco education efforts. These amounts would increase with a full year implementation of the new taxes in 2021-22. Please see the bill's fiscal note for more information. CASB issued an advocacy alert in support of HB20-1427 and our members responded, showing the support needed to get this initiative across the finish line.

HB20-1418 — School Finance Act passed on party lines

The School Finance Act — HB20-1418 — was hotly debated by both sides of the aisle as K-12 funding accounts for approximately 36% of the legislature's General Fund appropriations. The bill sets 2020-21 per pupil funding at $7,083.61 and increases the Budget Stabilization Factor by $601.1 million. The Budget Stabilization Factor is now $1.12 billion debt owed to Colorado students. The fiscal note on the bill has specific details for each Colorado school district.

The bill includes language to guide boards of education on the timeline for their annual public hearing on district budgets and when boards must adopt budgets. The notice of proposed budget must be published within 10 days after submitting the budget. The bill requires publication of the notice not later than June 25, 2020. Notice of the budget shall be posted for at least 2 business days.

Bill sponsors also included language to clarify a Colorado Supreme Court ruling related to property tax mills. The Court ruled in 2009 — in what is known as the "Mesa Ruling" — that the Colorado Department of Education (CDE) had incorrectly required school districts that had gained voter approval to retain taxes collected above the revenue limits set forth in the Colorado Taxpayer Bill of Rights (TABOR) to lower their mill levies. The result of CDE actions have caused significant inequities in mill levies across the state. It is important to note the language in HB20-1418 does not increase any mill levy rates. Boards of education must approve a tax credit equal to the number of mills levied that exceeds the number of mills levied in 2019. Revenue generated by the number of mills for which there is a tax credit is not included in calculating the school district's local and state shares of school finance. It will be up to a future session of the Colorado General Assembly to determine how and if local mill levies should be increased to help balance the share of education funding provided by the state and local property taxes.

HB20-1420 — Adjust Tax Expenditures For State Education Fund legislation on way to Governor for signature

After several days of negotiations, Governor Polis, education lobbyists, business interests, and others settled on an agreement that keeps many of the tax breaks in place, and provides $113 million into education for the next fiscal year, which begins in July, and then $25 million in the 2021-22 fiscal year. While these funds won't help with the current school year budget, they could provide a much-needed "cushion" for the 2021-22 fiscal year when many budget watchers believe the state could be faced with an even larger challenge in funding public education. 

SCR20-001 passed — Gallagher repeal will be on the November ballot

Thanks in large part to the support by CASB members and advocates from across Colorado, SCR20-001 passed with a two-thirds majority. Voters will have an opportunity in November to repeal the Gallagher Amendment. 

Specifically, SCR20-001 repeals the 29 percent assessment rate in the constitution for most nonresidential property, the calculation of the target percentage, and the requirement that the General Assembly adjust the residential assessment rate to maintain the target percentage. Visit the CASB website to learn more and access the sample resolution. 

Sign up for the CASB Legislative Wrap-up Webinars next week

This legislative session is unlike any prior session in our history! Join Matt Cook, CASB Director of Public Policy and Advocacy, and Kathy Plomer, Chair of the CASB Legislative Resolutions Committee, as they recap the 2020 legislative session and all of its unprecedented twists and turns. What started as a typical session turned into one that no one could have predicted — there is much to discuss.

Join us during a virtual webinar to learn more, ask questions and recap the legislative session with other school board members. It's a great opportunity to hear from your peers as you wrap up another school year. Registration is complimentary.

Webinars will take place on Wednesday, June 24, at 6:00 p.m. and Thursday, June 25, at 12:30 p.m. Learn more and register.

June 4, 2020

In this issue:

  • 2020-21 School Finance Act legislation
  • Repealing the Gallagher Amendment

2020-21 School Finance Act legislation

The Colorado House of Representatives today introduced the School Finance Act — HB20-1418 — to set funding for Colorado’s 178 school districts in the upcoming budget year. Colorado Speaker of the House KC Becker is carrying the bill as the prime House sponsor. Speaker Becker has worked extremely hard with the Joint Budget Committee (JBC) to craft a bill in the face of enormous cuts caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.

HB20-1418 includes several items that CASB members need to be aware of: 

  • Sets the state per pupil funding at $7,083.61
  • Repeals the appropriation for several current grant programs to help fund school finance
  • Sets the per student appropriation for funding related to the READ Act
  • Removes the requirement for the dollar amount of the budget stabilization factor to remain the same as during the 2019-20 budget year — we will send an updated alert as soon as we know how much the budget stabilization factor is
  • The notice of proposed budget must be published within 10 days after submitting the budget. The bill requires publication of the notice not later than June 25, 2020. Notice of the budget shall be posted for at least 2 business days
  • Reduce the state fiscal year (FY) 2020-21 appropriation from the public school capital construction assistance fund (assistance fund) for "Building Excellent Schools Today Act" program cash grants for public school capital construction from $160 million to $25 million

One additional significant change proposed in the bill relates to mill levies in the school finance formula.

The Colorado Supreme Court ruled in 2009, through what is known as the “Mesa case,” that the Colorado Department of Education had incorrectly required Colorado school districts to lower mill levies in order to comply with the Taxpayer Bill of Rights (TABOR) limits — even though 174 of the state’s 178 school district voters had voted to allow the schools to keep all taxes collected above the TABOR limits. The court further held that the Colorado General Assembly had the authority to set mill levy limits for public education. Unfortunately, the Great Recession happened about the same time as the court ruling and, as a result, legislators didn’t have much appetite to tackle the issue.

Fast forward to the current SFA bill, which states: “The General Assembly finds, therefore, that the reductions in district mill levies for property tax years 1994 through 2006 were not authorized by statute and are void for purposes of determining a district’s correct mill levy.”

The proposed language in the School Finance Act addresses mill levies as follows:

For the 174 districts that de-Bruced (obtained voter approval to retain and spend revenue in excess of the TABOR property tax revenue limit), the state constitution shall levy the lesser of:

  • 27 mills;
  • The number of mills the district was at when voters de-Bruced
  • The number of mills necessary to fund the district’s total program fund.

For the 4 districts that have not de-Bruced, they must levy the number of mills that does not result in revenue above the TABOR limit and the state constitution shall levy the lesser of:

  • 27 mills;
  • The number of mills that were assessed in the previous tax year; or
  • The number of mills necessary to fund the district’s total program fund.

In order to have no impact on taxpayers, the legislature will issue tax credits to match the number of mills levied above those set in 2019, and school boards will acknowledge the temporary property tax credit on their annual mill levy certification resolution. What this all means is that even though corrected mill levies will be reflected on the annual board resolution, no new revenue will be collected or available to fund schools. So if nothing changes, why include this language in the School Finance Act? There are two important reasons to do this now:

  1. The language is likely to be challenged in court, which would provide an opportunity for the Colorado Supreme Court to reaffirm their 2009 decision. The Court’s ruling in the Mesa case seems very clear that the Colorado General Assembly has the ability to set mill levies for public education.
  2. Including this language in the School Finance Act would allow a future legislature to address the issue and try to bring some equity to the currently inequitable system of Colorado property taxes for education.

This proposal is not mill levy equalization as it has been discussed in recent years. Additionally, as written, there would be no impact on mill levy overrides approved by local voters. This language in the SFA bill is to correct the mill levies that have been wrongly interpreted and applied to the total program mill calculation in the school finance formula.

Repealing the Gallagher Amendment

In other tax related news, the Colorado Senate introduced Senate Concurrent Resolution SCR20-001 titled “Repeal Property Tax Assessment Rates.” If approved by a two-thirds majority of both the Colorado Senate and House, the resolution would place a question on the November ballot asking voters to remove many aspects of what is commonly known as the Gallagher Amendment in the Colorado Constitution. Specifically, the resolution would ask Colorado voters if they support:

  • Removing the 45% to 55% property tax calculation between residential property (45%) and business property (55%)
  • Removing the historic 21% assessment rate on residential property and the 29% rate on business property
  • Removing the Colorado General Assembly from having to set the Residential Assessment Rate (RAR)

The resolution was introduced on Monday, June 1, 2020 and in short order passed out of the Senate Finance Committee on a unanimous vote of 7-0. The full Senate is scheduled to debate the resolution very soon.

The CASB Delegate Assembly has a long history of passing CASB resolutions in support of removing the Colorado tax code from the state’s constitution, including the Gallagher Amendment. Resolutions approved at the October 2019 Delegate Assembly are available (linked here) - Legislative Resolution 22 deals directly with the Gallagher Amendment.

If your local Board of Education wishes to pass a resolution in support of SCR 20-001 your CASB staff has draft language for a resolution and additional resources on the CASB website.

Link to sample CASB Resolution in Support of Repealing the Gallagher Amendment

May 19, 2020

In this issue:

  • One-time CARES Act funding headed to Colorado school districts
  • Sign up for the CASB Conversation webinar on Budgeting During a State Fiscal Crisis 2.0

One-time CARES Act funding headed to Colorado school districts

Colorado Governor Jared Polis and the Democratic leadership in the Colorado House and Senate announced Monday, May 18, 2020, they will direct $510 million to K-12 education. The funding is provided via the Coronavirus Aid Economic Security Act (CARES). Governor Polis’s executive order mandated the allocation. 

These funds will be distributed on a per-pupil basis by the Colorado Department of Education (CDE). BOCES will receive $25,000. Colorado Commissioner of Education Katy Athens has stated schools can expect to have these funds by the end of this week.

The details of how the funds can be used include the following guidance:

  • Can only be used on COVID-19 related expenses, and not to back-fill budgetary shortages
  • Expenses eligible must have occurred after March 1, 2020, and all funds must be expended by December 30, 2020
  • Districts will have to return a “notice of award” to CDE within 2 weeks of receiving the funds

Commissioner Athens said that CDE would have additional information and guidance in the coming days.

While these funds will help to soften the blow from the COVID-19 public health emergency and resulting economic shut down of the state, they will not solve the long-term structural budget issues our schools are facing. The General Assembly’s Joint Budget Committee will still need to face an approximate $3 - $4 billion revenue shortfall. The state General Fund is the fund that lawmakers use to cover expenses related to large portions of the budget including K12, Transportation, and Corrections.

Sign up for the CASB Conversation webinar on Budgeting During a State Fiscal Crisis 2.0

Now that we’ve heard the interim update on the state revenue forecast and the latest Joint Budget Committee deliberations, the nature of what school boards must grapple with in order to balance their budget is beginning to crystallize. Join Tracie Rainey, Executive Director for the Colorado School Finance Project, Dave Montoya, Executive Director of Finance, Poudre School District, and Matt Cook, CASB Director of Public Policy and Advocacy, as they discuss the ramifications of what we now know and provide some best practices on how to budget through a state fiscal crisis.

Learn more and register


May 12, 2020

In this issue:

  • Interim update to the state revenue forecast shows a potential $3.3 billion shortfall
  • Issues the General Assembly make take on when it resumes on May 26
  • 3 steps you can take to prepare

Interim update to the state revenue forecast shows a potential $3.3 billion shortfall

The crushing economic weight of the COVID-19 health emergency came into full view with the release of the interim updates to the state economic forecasts. The Joint Budget Committee (JBC) will potentially have $3.3 billion less to fund state programs in the 2020-21 fiscal year budget. Colorado schools won’t know how these projections will impact their budgets until the School Finance Act (SFA) is drafted, but a significant increase in the Budget Stabilization Factor — or the amount designed to reduce districts’ total program funding below the constitutional commitment under Amendment 23 — is expected.

The JBC typically does not receive a forecast in May, but nothing during the COVID-19 pandemic has been normal. The JBC received two forecasts. One is generally more fiscally conservative and comes from the Legislative Council Staff (LCS) — the forecast is available here. The other forecast from the Governor’s Office of State Budget and Planning (OSPB) tends to be more optimistic and is available here. This time around neither forecast had any good news. Colorado State Economist Kate Watkins of the LCS summed it up this way, “What has transpired over the last two months have been unimaginable.”

The Legislative Council Staff forecast outlined reductions in consumer spending, declining Colorado income taxes, and impacts to the Colorado oil and gas industry. Colorado unemployment numbers perhaps are the best indicator of the speed of economic changes since the stay-at-home orders went into effect in mid-March. In 2019, weekly unemployment numbers average 1,900 per week. In April 2020, the weekly average was 50 times greater with 56,800 Coloradans on average seeking unemployment benefits.

State budget makers were hoping that federal stimulus funds from the Coronavirus Aid Relief and Economic Security (CARES) act might be able to help patch some holes in the budget. However, the strings attached by Congress dictate that the majority of the money be used to pay for costs directly associated with the pandemic and not state budgetary back-filling. Additionally, the CARES act will decrease Colorado income tax collections by increased business deductions and other factors.

Public education is not the only segment of the budget that will be hit hard by falling state revenue; Transportation, High Education and Health Services will all take massive hits to their budgets. In the coming week the JBC will finish drafting the School Finance Act and the Colorado 2020-21 state budget known as the “Long Bill”. Once these bills are drafted CASB members will have a better understanding of the full impacts of the expected cuts to public education.

Issues the General Assembly make take on when it resumes on May 26

As covered in this morning’s Denver Post lead — Colorado’s massive budget shortfall likely to get worse — the General Assembly now gets to tackle how to create next year’s budget with the looming shortfall in revenues.

“So now, at the onset of a recession, the people running state government are weighing how to keep Colorado afloat. Just how hard state services are hit depends in large part on three factors:”

Friday’s School Board Advocate will take a deeper dive into these policy options and more. 

3 steps you can take to prepare

  1. Sign up to attend next week’s Budgeting During a State Fiscal Crisis 2.0 webinar (click here for details)
  2. Sign up now to help Advocate for Funding for our schools (click here to sign up)
  3. Read Friday’s School Board Advocate where we will provide further details and analysis

May 11, 2020

In this issue:

  • Colorado General Assembly delays return
  • State revenue forecast still planned for Tuesday, May 12

Colorado General Assembly delays its return until May 26, 2020

The Colorado General Assembly has postponed its return from Monday, May 18, until Tuesday, May 26. The reasons given include:

  • to give lawmakers more time for preparations such as safety protocols
  • to work through legislation tied to the COVID-19 health emergency pandemic
  • to "seek greater clarity on potential Congressional action that could significantly impact our state budget"

Unless legislative action is taken, the General Assembly must approve a budget and a School Finance Act for the start of the 2020-21 fiscal year by June 30. There may be proposed legislation to change the 30-day requirement districts have to post their budget to the public.

Your CASB staff will keep you informed of the latest details as they become available. 

State revenue forecast still planned for Tuesday, May 12

The Joint Budget Committee will meet tomorrow, Tuesday, May 12, to hear the interim updated revenue forecast. CASB will send out another Legislative Alert with additional details once they become available. Media reports have stated that a $2 billion to $4 billion cut revenue shortfall is expected and will require cuts in the upcoming fiscal year budget. How this will impact school budgets, that make up 36% of the state budget is, yet to be determined. 

Look for a separate communication related to the revenue forecast tomorrow. We will keep you posted through your email and CASB social media channels.


Legislative Alert: April 17, 2019
Act now on school finance

Legislative Alert: June 27, 2017
Joint Budget Committee June 2017 Revenue Forecast

Legislative Alert: May 1, 2017
Say 'No' on SB 61, 'Yes' to all students

Legislative Alert: January 17, 2017
CASB urges ‘No’ on SB 61 – Charter schools and override funding

Legislative Alert: June 30, 2016
Speak up on importance of Career Technical Education

Legislative Alert: May 6, 2016
Speak up (again)! Tell House members ‘No’ on charter school bills; late-night gambit shows this is high-stakes battle

Legislative Alert: May 3, 2016
Speak up! Tell House members ‘No’ on charter school bills

Legislative Alert: April 15, 2016
CASB voices needed to oppose charter school bills

Legislative Alert: March 29, 2016
Free up funds for K-12 by reclassifying Hospital Provider Fee

Legislative Alert: March 28, 2016
‘Civics’ bill duplicates curriculum and is an unfunded mandate

Legislative Alert: Jan. 27, 2016
Senate Ed Committee to discuss BEST bill on Thursday - sent to CASB Region 2

Legislative Alert: Jan. 26, 2016
Senate Ed Committee to discuss BEST bill on Thursday sent to CASB Regions 3, 10, 11 & 12

Legislative Alert: April 30, 2015
URGENT: Take action to free up dollars for schools

Legislative Alert: March 17, 2015
Take action to restore Amendment 23 funding

Legislative Alert: Jan. 22, 2015
Weigh in on discipline reporting requirements

Legislative Alert: April 7, 2014
Act Now! Eliminate the Earmarking of BEST Funds

Legislative Alert: Feb. 28, 2014
ACT NOW: Protect the confidentiality of attorney-client discussions

Legislative Alert: March 18, 2013
New School Finance Proposal Gets First Hearing In Senate Education Committee

Legislative Alert: Dec. 19, 2012
Protect the Tax Exempt Status of Municipal Bonds

Legislative Alert: Dec. 6, 2012
Act Now to Prevent Sequestration!

Legislative Alert: May 10, 2012
Special session slated for Monday

Legislative Alert: May 2, 2012
CASB Action Alert!

Legislative Alert: March 9, 2012
House Education Committee moves up K-3 literacy hearing

Legislative Alert: June 21, 2011
NSBA-AASA Request Action on Regulatory Relief

Legislative Alert: May 26, 2011
CASB Supports NSBA Petition for Regulatory Relief

Legislative Alert: April 8, 2011
Contact Members of the Senate Now; Cuts to K-12 Still Too High