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School Supporters Encourage Cortez City Council to Back Mill Levy

Austin Cope

The Cortez City Council heard a plea Tuesday night from supporters of a mill-levy override for Montezuma Cortez School District Re-1.

The question will be on district voters’ ballots for the November 7th election. The funds would go to raise teacher salaries, improve classroom technology, and upgrade the aging bus fleet. Southwest Open teacher Matt Keefauver said higher teacher salaries are key to recruiting and retaining good educators. He said the average teacher salary in districts such as Mancos and Dolores is $33,000, while the average in Cortez is $29,000. There is a shortage of teachers both statewide and nationwide. Salaries would take the largest chunk of the override, while 15 percent would go to technology needs such as replacing older computers. Seven percent would go to address safety concerns related to school buses. Re-1 human resources director Dan Porter told the board the federal Department of Transportation recommends buses be replaced after 300,000 miles or 15 years. However, of Re-1’s 20 buses, more than half exceed those recommendations, and most have clutches. The override would raise property taxes about $36 per year per $100,000 home. Keefauver said 120 districts statewide have mill-levy overrides already, but Re-1 is one of 58 that do not. The override’s supporters have a Facebook page called “For Our Kids’ Future.” Election ballots will be mailed the week of October 16th.

Austin Cope is a former Morning Edition host for KSJD and now produces work on a freelance basis for the station. He grew up in Cortez and hosted a show on KSJD when he was 10 years old. After graduating from Montezuma-Cortez High School in 2010, he lived in Belgium, Ohio, Spain, northern Wyoming, and Himachal Pradesh, India before returning to the Cortez area. He has a degree in Politics from Oberlin College in Ohio.
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