Budget Matter$

Colorado's Entangled Constitution

Littleton Public Schools is a special place where students excel, families thrive, and the community has a long tradition of supporting its schools.  However, the tradition of excellence this community has worked so hard to maintain is being threatened by an inadequate tax structure statewide that cannot recover from bad times and cannot grow.

The entire nation suffered during the recession in 2008, and schools have since felt the consequences of those hard times with less state funding.  This community stepped up to support its schools twice during the nation’s recession - passing a mill levy election in 2010 and passing a bond election in 2013, which has kept LPS from having to make additional cuts and allowed for the upkeep of the community’s school facilities.  

Today, Colorado’s economy is thriving, and the expectation is that the state’s budget would also recover.  However, the entanglement of the Taxpayer Bill of Rights (TABOR), Amendment 23, and the Gallagher Amendment in the Colorado Constitution make it impossible for the state’s budget to recover in a good economy.  The state is forced to refund restored dollars back to taxpayers instead of returning the funding to our schools, roads, health and human services, and institutions of higher learning.

The results are devastating to public education.  The Colorado Legislature has been cutting K-12 education funding through a mechanism called the “Negative Factor.”  The Negative Factor has cost Littleton Public Schools $87.5 million since 2009.  That’s about $1,000 per student per year.

The state’s budget is rapidly approaching a tipping point.  This time, the LPS community cannot make up the difference as it has in the past; LPS has nearly reached the limit of locally raised funding allowed by law.  This time, there is no local solution, and school budgets will be cut deeper.  We in LPS will be powerless to stop it.

Colorado's Entangled Constitution and its impact on LPS


Colorado K-12 Funding vs. National Average

A history of budget cuts in LPS

In 2009, $7.5 million in cuts were made for the 2010-2011 budget, including and not limited to:

  • No increase to district salary or benefit costs with the exception of PERA
  • Central office staffing cuts
  • Reductions of contracts for central office employees
  • Staffing cuts in the schools
  • Furlough days for all employees
  • Cuts to staff development for all employees
  • Elimination of district support for dental insurance
  • No increase in district cost for health benefits
  • Reductions or elimination of district financial support for some programs, including the International Baccalaureate programs at Field Elementary School and Newton Middle School.

Prior to 2009, previous budget-cutting strategies included and were not limited to:

  • Closed two elementary schools 
  • Reduced district bus fleet and drivers by 35 percent and increased number of routes each remaining bus runs
  • Eliminated district support of vision insurance for employees
  • Cut central administration positions and budgets at a much higher rate than schools
  • Cut 30 percent of ESC business office staff
  • Cut 30 percent of ESC administrative staff
  • Cut 40 percent of ESC warehouse staff
  • Cut print shop, office technology, school/community relations staff by 65 percent 
  • Cut maintenance and operations staff
  • Furloughed all 12-month employees by six days
  • Furloughed all custodians by three weeks
  • Closed ESC one additional week
  • Cut overhead costs through multi-district co-op purchasing, self-funded workers’ compensation programs, and competitive bids for fuel and natural gas
  • Cut overhead costs by outsourcing lawn care and trash removal
  • Eliminated financial support for food services and print shop
  • Allowed school supply budgets to grow only 10 percent in the last 20 years
  • Endured the negative financial consequences of declining enrollment through yearly adjustments to individual school staffing levels as well as in support areas

As a result, LPS has had one of the lowest administrative costs among Denver metro area school district for years. 

History of state budget cuts and local elections

1988 -- $3 million mill levy passed
1992–1993 -- $1.7 million in cuts
1993–1994 -- $2.6 million in cuts
1994–1995 -- $1.3 million in cuts
1995–1996 -- $3 million in cuts

1997 -- $5 million mill levy passed
2001–2002 -- $3 million in cuts
2002 -- $85.4 million bond election passed for capital improvements
2004–2005 -- $3.5 million in cuts
2004 -- $6.5 million mill levy passed
2008–2009 -- $1.5 million in cuts; $1.5 million from reserves; $532,000 mid-year rescission
2009–2010 -- $4 million in cuts
2010–2011 -- $7.5 million in cuts

2010 -- $12 million mill levy passed
2011–2012 -- largest cuts to K–12 funding in Colorado history; mill levy funds used to backfill more than $5 million in cuts from the state
2013 -- $80 million bond election passed for capital improvements

Contact your Legislators

Littleton Public Schools takes an active part in helping to form education legislation by participating in the legislative process at the State Capitol. LPS representatives, along with LPS lobbyists, work on behalf of education and Colorado's children. Learn more about how to get involved.

Colorado Did You Know?

The first “Colorado Did You Know?” video from Colorado School Finance Project describes K-12 school funding in Colorado: history of where we have been / where we are now, the impact of the negative factor on Colorado's school districts and how money matters to districts and students. The second video, from 2017, provides additional details about the impact of Colorado’s K-12 funding on our students, districts and ultimately our state.

Watch: “Colorado Did You Know?”

Watch: "Colorado Did You Know 2017?"

How Does Colorado's Budget Work?

School Finance:  How Does it Work???
A presentation from the Colorado Department of Education to the Colorado Joint House Senate Education Committee and the Joint Budget Committee
March 3, 2016
(explains how Colorado funds K-12 education)

Constitutional Environment for School Finance
A presentation from the Office of Legislative Legal Services
March 2, 2016
(explains property tax, Gallagher Amendment, TABOR Amendment, Amendment 23, the 2008 Recession, and the Negative Factor)

How Do Local Mill Levy Overrides & the Negative Factor affect school districts?  
(shows a district-by-district comparison)

Affect of Overrides in Denver metro area districts

Affect of Overrides statewide


Other Resources