Making sense of state and district funding challenges
Education funding in Colorado is complicated. Here is an overview guide to help navigate the complexities of funding K-12 education in our state.
How Does Adams 12 Five Star Schools Receive Money?
Printable PDF: English | En Español
Our general operating budget is funded mostly from state and local tax revenue and a little from federal and other sources.
State and local revenue work off of the School Finance Act. Started in 1994, the formula determines how tax revenue is distributed equitably across the state, weighing characteristics and factors of each district to determine funding per pupil.
State revenue was intended to fill in where local funds came up short. In the 1980s, state revenue was only one-third of our budget. Currently, it is nearly two-thirds. At this ratio, any cuts or lack of increases from the State take a major toll on our school funding.
Local Property Taxes
We receive tax revenue from the properties within our district boundaries, which adds to the state School Finance Act. Compared to other school districts, the assessed value of the entire district, divided by the number of students in the district, is much lower due to lower overall home values and fewer businesses. This results in less revenue for our district and more funding we have to come up with through locally-approved overrides.
Assessed Property Valuation*
Fiscal Year 2022-2023
Compared to other school districts, the assessed value of residential and commercial properties in the Five Star District is much lower due to lower overall home values and fewer companies that reside within district boundaries.
Locally-Approved Bonds and Overrides
Bonds = Buildings
Bonds can only be used for capital expenditures, including major repairs, renovations, additions to schools and new schools. Bonds are not included in the district general fund and cannot be used for operating costs such as salaries and benefits.
Overrides = Operations
Overrides, or "Mill Levy Overrides",are additions to the general fund and used for operating expenses such as salaries and benefits, instructional programs, and classroom technology.
Colorado allows districts to ask voters to approve additional funding. Due to lower tax revenue, we have to ask for more bonds and overrides to make up the difference than other districts such as Boulder Valley or St. Vrain Valley. And yet, Boulder Valley still has over twice as much override revenue than we do.
Per Funded Pupil - State School Finance & Local Override
Fiscal Year 2022-23
*Even though we have lower tax revenue, we also have not approved as many bonds or overrides as other districts.
How Do We Spend Our Money?
Navigating the Budget - 2022 (English)
Navigating the Budget - 2022 (Spanish)
Learn more about the district's budget
Interesting fact: Did you know that Adams 12 Five Star Schools only spends 6.8% of the salaries and benefits budget administrative staff? That makes us the 2nd leanest school district in the front range for administrative spending and tied for 6th leanest district in the state of Colorado (out of 178). Based on CDE's most recent 2020-21 data.
Digging a Little Further
- Funding Mythbusters
- Five Star Journal: Special Funding 101 section ( In Spanish)
- Read or listen to an article on Colorado Public Radio about state funding challenges featuring our superintendent, Chris Gdowski.
- Listen to a three-part program on Colorado Public Radio about the formation of TABOR in Colorado.
How To Help
- Write your state representatives: Click here for a full listing with contact information for leaders within Adams 12 Five Star Schools boundary
- Read how schools are funded by Chalkbeat.
- Tips on getting involved in the Colorado Government
- And just for fun (and we could all use a refresher): How a Bill Becomes a Law
- Get involved with your school, the district or community groups.