Colorado lawmakers have hit on a funding source to help troubled school districts cover up to $25 million in startup compensation as they expand full-day educational institution this fall: marijuana taxes.
The money is expected to aid districts in rural areas, as well as others short on cash. It would help buy new desks and piece of piece of furniture, fixtures for bathrooms and classrooms, and other instrumentality schools need as they expand their full-day educational institution offerings.
To assist with those one-time expenses, lawmakers fixed on sound the Building excellent Schools Today (BEST) fund, which not yet draws from marijuana tax money to issue local grants for school construction projects. The proposal is part of a bipartisan bill that besides would deliver a $125 million boost in direct school construction assistance crosswise the state in the next two years.
The state recently has put $40 million a year from retail marijuana excise taxes into the BEST fund, fulfilling a requirement of Colorado’s 2012 vote to legalize the sale and possession of recreational marijuana. The fund besides includes revenue from other sources, including the lottery and state land leases and royalties.
The projected increases fit with “the will of the electors when they voted for Amendment 64 — to put these dollars towards public education,” aforementioned Rep. Shannon Bird, D-Westminster, during an Appropriations Committee hearing last week on House Bill 1055.
But public confusion has reigned over the use of the marijuana tax money, which has exceeded projections.
As The Denver Post according in “State of Marijuana,” a three-day series published in late December, the state collected upward of $740 million from marijuana-related taxes in the first five years of legal gross gross sales, putt it to a variety of uses — only some of which were related to education. Besides excise taxes on wholesale proceedings, the state and local governments besides have drawn big money from gross gross sales taxes.
So in recent Sessions, lawmakers have discussed shipway to shift more marijuana money into the BEST program. Bird’s bill does that by requiring that all excise tax revenue go into BEST, not just the first $40 million — or even 90 percentage of it, as new legislation stipulated a year ago.
Bird ascribable The Post’s series with raising awareness of schools’ unmet building inevitably and the variable shipway the state has spent its marijuana tax revenue.
HB-1055 won House approval 56-8 on Friday and now awaits action by the Senate, where Sen. Rachel Zenzinger, D-Arvada, is the lead sponsor.
Full-day educational institution compensation
The projected grant program for educational institution expansion compensation would require districts to apply, with a formula set for distribution.
The legislative assembly separately is advancing Gov. Jared Polis’ full-day educational institution initiative, which carries its own $175 million cost in the next fiscal year for an increase in per-pupil funding to districts, according to the legislative assembly’s latest fiscal analysis. That annual expense could grow to $213 million if all bailable students enroll.
The rollout assistance grants, though, will come from the BEST fund’s reserve, which amounted to $370 million at the end of the last fiscal year. Much of that money secures loans taken out for some of the larger BEST awards to districts as matching grants to build new schools and other large projects, but Bird says there is excess reserve money to tap.
“The $25 million, we know we had this money,” Bird aforementioned in an interview. “We’re excited about full-day educational institution, but there will be some school districts that cannot afford the cost. We did not want this to be a burden on the schools that are in need of assistance.”
More for school construction grants
If approved, the bill would increase the money available for the annual BEST grant program in three shipway:
- The requirement that all marijuana excise tax revenue go into the fund will result in an extra $5.8 million in the 2019-2020 fiscal year, a fiscal analyst estimates. antecedently , thing over the threshold had gone to an education investment fund.
- The state would draw $50 million extra from the BEST reserve for the next fiscal year and $75 million in 2020-2021, though budget-writers will need to approve the latter amount next year. The result in some years would be about $135 million available for direct grants, Bird aforementioned.
- A $100 million cap for annual repayment of certificates of participation — a form of debt to cover matching grants for larger projects — would increase to $105 million in the next fiscal year and then for good to $110 million starting in 2020-2021, Bird aforementioned, allowing for more borrowing.
- Full-day educational institution mostly funded — for now — in win for Gov. Jared Polis
- Full-day educational institution works, educators say. Paying for it remains Colorado’s challenge.
- about half of Colorado’s marijuana money can go wherever lawmakers wish
some other provision of the bill would increase project grants available for charter schools by nearly $4.3 million next year because of a change that bases their share of the funding on how galore students they have.
The bill has been opposed by a small number of legislators in part because of the BEST fund’s continuing use of COPs, which are like construction bonds but don’t require elector approval.