General F.A.Q.

What is a bond? What is a mill levy override?

Both a bond and mill levy are types of funding drawn from property taxes to support public projects and services. Denver Public Schools (DPS) is one of the public entities that has the ability ask voters for funding through property taxes increases. A portion of Denver residents’ property taxes go into a state fund that supports education in Denver and across the state.  Another portion of property taxes are for bonds and mill levy overrides that fund only projects and services in Denver.

Click here to watch an informational video on the difference between a bond and mill levy.

What is the difference between the bond and mill levy?

Bonds are one-time investments in capital projects such building classrooms, buying technology and security equipment. Bond funds help renovate older schools to update them for 21st-century learning, build brand-new school buildings and buy additional educational technology.

A mill levy funds ongoing operational needs such as teachers, software, enrichments, and social-emotional supports.

A bond funds the building of schools and classrooms and the mill levy brings the classrooms to life.

Click here to watch an informational video on the difference between a bond and mill levy.

How does Colorado’s education funding compare to other states?

Colorado ranks near the bottom of the country in education funding – at 42 out of 50 states. Colorado spends around $2,000 less per pupil than the national average.

What is the Community Planning and Advisory Committee (CPAC)?

A Bond and a Mill Levy are unique opportunities to improve student environment and learning experience. Given this unique opportunity, the Board of Education seeks to place our community – parents, teachers, students and community members – in the role of developing these recommendations. The CPAC is made up of a group of 60-75 community members who meet regularly in order to develop the bond and mill levy package that eventually go to the board and then to voters.

Click here to watch an informational video on the difference between a bond and mill levy.

How does DPS determine the level of support for each school once a bond and mill levy are passed?

In general, bond projects are awarded based on school need. The facilities team conducts in-depth facility analyses and prioritizes projects throughout the district. What this means is that every school will not receive the same amount of investment, but rather the schools with the greatest facility needs will receive larger investment.

All DPS students have benefitted in some way from the mill levy, which also targets funds to our neediest students. In considering two similar schools – one with 40% students living in poverty and another with 80% students in poverty – the latter school would receive approximately 50% additional funding.

Click here to watch an informational video on the difference between a bond and mill levy.

How did the legalization of marijuana affect funding for Denver schools?

DPS does not get a significant amount of funding from marijuana taxes. Since marijuana was legalized in 2014, DPS has received no funding from state marijuana taxes.

However, the City of Denver collects taxes on marijuana sales, and some of those funds go towards youth marijuana prevention and education. DPS receives about $1 per student from these sources to provide after-school and summer programs.

How was DPS accountable for the 2016 bond and mill investment?

Citizen oversight committees were appointed by the superintendent and the school board for both the 2016 bond and mill levy. The Bond Oversight Committee ensures accountability for delivering projects scope and transparency around bond financial management. The Mill Levy Oversight Committee ensured that mill levy funds were spent as originally intended and represented to the voters and tracks expenditures through an accountability system. For the 2020 Mill Levy, the Budget Advisory Committee will take on the oversight responsibilities

Bond F.A.Q.

What is a bond?

A bond invests in school buildings. Bond funds help renovate older schools to update them for 21st-century learning, build brand-new school buildings and buy additional educational technology. A bond can invest in building upgrades such as critical maintenance, sustainability or cooling.

How much will a 2020 bond cost taxpayers?

The 2020 bond requires an increase in the district’s bond debt but is not expected to raise property taxes based on current and forecasted property values.

How much did the 2016 bond cost taxpayers?

The 2016 bond package did not increase the tax rate. This is because Denver total property value continues to rise with the influx of new residents and new buildings. DPS has also been a good steward of prior bond issues, refinancing in low-interest environment.

How is DPS upgrading the learning environments in our older facilities?

133 schools serving approximately 74,000 students will receive between $100,000 – $375,000 to make targeted improvements such as new, personalized furniture or upgrading classroom painting and flooring. For these awards, schools will have flexibility to work with their school communities and target the funds to meet their needs. For example, a school could choose to concentrate the money to update the school library or auditorium.

What will be done about the changing enrollment trends across the district?

From the 2020 bond, $65 million will be invested in the purchase of land for two new schools in the Gateway community in northeast Denver as well as expanding ECE centers in strategic locations around the city.

Will any of the funds go to facility maintenance?

The 2020 bond is investing $208 million into maintaining our older facilities, including funding for critical maintenance items that are necessary for the safe operation of schools. Approximately half of DPS facilities were built before 1969; the oldest buildings are also the largest, encompassing about 2/3 of the district’s total square feet. Critical maintenance projects include repairs and replacements for heating, plumbing, roofing and electrical.

The investment includes $128.5 million in funding for air conditioning installation in 24 schools. 

How will the district increase technology-per-student ratios?

Approximately $29 million has been invested to expand the MyTech program, student access to at-home internet, individual student Chromebooks, and funding for school’s technology equipment and capabilities. Also included is an investment in Assistive Technology, which increases access to inclusive technology for students with special needs.

Will any of the investments go toward student safety?

The bond includes critical systems and infrastructure to support student safety. This includes a $5.9 million investment in expanding cameras in schools, video analytics, visitor management systems and access controls.  Also included is a $3.7 million investment in 24 hour monitoring solutions to resolve critical risks.

The 2016 bond included funding for new door locks in all schools that included an interior push-button function, allowing students or teachers to lock a room without having to find a key or go outside the classroom. Read more here about security upgrades made possible by the 2016 bond.

Are there any initiatives that will help the district save money?

The DPS Office of Sustainability works continually throughout the year to improve learning environments for students and staff while also reducing utility and operational costs. By focusing on energy-saving measures in DPS school buildings like installing LED lighting, rooftop solar panels, and other mechanical efficiency improvements, solutions for long-term sustainability can continually be implemented.

Mill Levy F.A.Q.

What is a mill levy override?

A mill levy funds ongoing operational needs such as teachers, software, enrichments, and social-emotional supports.

How much will a 2020 mill levy cost taxpayers?

If approved, the Debt-Free Schools ballot initiative (mill levy), is expected to cost about $4.25 per month or $51 annually for owners of a Denver home valued at the median $465,000.

What priorities are funded by the 2020 Mill Levy?

The 2020 Mill Levy will fund the following investments, which will benefit students and staff in all DPS schools:

  • Low wage and compensation increases – $17 million
  • Mental health staff and support – $3 million
  • Nursing Services  – $4 million
  • Special Education Services, including paraprofessionals and speech language pathologists – $2 million
  • Charter share – $6 million

How will the mill levy invest in teachers and other support staff?

In Fiscal Year 2020, Denver Classroom Teachers Association and the district entered Year 1 of a new teacher contract with a new, higher salary schedule that increased teacher pay with the goal of improving teacher retention. After this agreement was made, DPS reduced the number of teachers choosing to leave by more than 300 full-time employees. Continuing to dedicate funds from the mill levy to teacher compensation will help to secure the long-term teacher compensation budget and help assure that DPS can continue to retain and attract high-quality teachers.

By investing in DPS staff serving in critical school support roles, we can ensure that employees’ wages are increasing as the cost of living in Denver continues to rise. By increasing the wages for paraprofessionals, food service workers, custodians, and more (who make up 30% of DPS employees), we will meet the City of Denver’s requirement of a $15.85 minimum wage.

How will the mill levy increase mental health resources?

One of the points of focus of DPS Whole Child supports is ensuring that students have access to mental health supports. A previous mill levy invested $13 million toward mental health supports in schools, allowing for a 94% increase in school psychologists and social workers and a universal screening tool for social and emotional health.

DPS will continue investing in student mental health and the Whole Child with 2020 mill levy funds by increasing the number of full-time mental health staff, special education services, suicide and safety supports, and social-emotional learning resources.

How will the mill levy increase Nursing Services?

$4 million from the 2020 mill levy has been invested in Nursing Services. This investment helps to ensure overall equitable access to care across the district so that all students are safe, healthy and ready to learn. 

Before the 2020 Mill Levy was passed, school nurse staffing was variable across school sites. Of 125 school nurses in DPS, only 26 schools had a full-time nurse and 79 had a nurse only one day per week. Additional funding will allow an increase in the Nursing Services budget to employ either a nurse or health tech every day in every school.

This need became even more clear in the wake of a global pandemic; where the role of nurses in addressing the challenges of infectious diseases and supporting medically fragile students has become more important than ever.

How will the mill levy support Special Education Services?

$2 million of the 2020 mill levy is dedicated to increasing funding for Special Education (SPED) Services, including increased speech language pathologists and paraprofessionals.

Since 2016 there has been a dramatic increase in students requiring individual attention in schools. Students who have an Individualized Education Plan (IEP) are required by law to have access to special services, and school districts must come up with funds for those services.

Similarly, there is a recent heightened demand for speech language supports, particularly with 4- and 5-year old students.

Mill levy funds will help fund the positions necessary to give all students with IEPs the in-person support that they need and deserve.