Posted by Jim Garrett
School Board member Brooks Lindner, with the help of Lisa Scott, was present to discuss the November ballot question that would authorize a so-call “mill levy override,” that seeks to provide new funding for local schools from real estate tax proceeds.
Brooks explained that the additional revenue that would take effect for the 2019-2020 school year if the override is approved, and would be used by the schools for three purposes: salaries, school resource officers (essentially police officers permanently assigned to each of the local schools to provide security), and support of full-day kindergarten. 
Brooks and Lisa pointed out that teacher salaries in our school district are low.  The starting salary for a new, recent graduate teacher in Pagosa is approximately $34,000, and even a teacher with 20 years experience and a Master’s Degree is paid only approximately $56,000.   These salaries are not competitive, they said, even as compared to neighboring districts that already benefit from mill-levy overrides. 
This competitive shortcoming is increasingly critical, they told Rotarians, because there is currently a worsening, national teacher shortage due to declining enrollments in teacher education college curricula.  Our community simply cannot compete for quality teachers at the existing salary levels. 
The override that would be permitted by passage of the ballot question has a seven-year “sunset clause,” Brooks said.
Livia Lynch then asked for more specific information on how the money would be used, noting that she is aware that a position for a science teacher recently drew only one, poorly-qualified applicant, possibly due to high levels of demand for talent in non-educational technical fields; would raises be across the board, or selective she inquired. 
Brooks responded that the School Board would make the decision on specific allocations of the new funds if and when the measure passes.
John Richardson followed with a question whether the potential new money might be used to increase administrator salaries as well as teacher salaries, specifically referring the School Superintendent Linda Reed.  Brooks repeated that the Board would make that decision when appropriate, but added that Ms. Reed’s salary is squarely in the “middle” of the range for superintendents, and in the Board’s view she is highly able and diligent.  He also said that the District’s administrative staff is “bare bones,” at present.
Bill Darling observed that many local voters are seniors, who no longer have children in schools, and asked what the School Board’s response would be to such voters’ concerns that they would realize no benefit from approval of the override?
Brooks suggested in reply that education is a collective social obligation, and even if voters here do not have family members in the local schools, they may have grandchildren in schools in other communities.  Would they want voters in those communities, he asked, to be indifferent to the quality of their grandchildren’s education? 
Brooks also suggested that, more broadly, the quality of life in a community is greatly influenced by the quality of its schools in many ways, including the simple reality that it can be an important factor in attracting new residents with needful abilities.  Would those senior voters be indifferent, he asked rhetorically, to the quality of health care available to them in the community?  And, he added in a final point, one result of is that by attracting new residents, good schools lead to increasing property values.