Tax checkoff bill could bring minor relief to schools

A new tax donation checkoff may find its way onto 2011-2020 tax forms if a Democratic bill passed out of committee yesterday is signed into law. Senate Bill 109, the “Public Education Fund Tax Checkoff,” allows Coloradans to support education by adding a voluntary donation option on Colorado tax returns.

With $250 million in cuts scheduled to hit K-12 education, legislators have been scrambling to find innovative ways to find new dollars for education, and want to send the message that Colorado’s education funding may soon be hitting crisis levels. While American Recovery and Reinvestment Act dollars have been used to prop up Colorado’s K-12 programs over the last few years, those dollars are used up. That leaves Colorado to face the real effects of the economic downturn.

Democrats have created an online source to see exactly what those cuts will mean to each school district. See it here here.

“We need to find innovative ways to support the education of our kids. If we invest in kids’ education in their early years, we expand their future opportunity,” sponsor of SB 109 Senate President Brandon Shaffer, D-Longmont, said. “Right now funding is limited, and giving Coloradans this opportunity to support schools is a smart way to do more for Colorado kids.”

The tax refund checkoff would appear first on a list of 16 spaces where individuals can give money to various programs when completing their tax forms. According to the bill’s fiscal note while there is no way to know exactly how much money can be expected from the checkoff programs, a similar checkoff for military families brought in $187,799 in FY 2009-2010.

While $200,000 is not much in the face of millions of dollars of shortfalls, Shaffer has said every little bit counts.

Senate Bill 109 now goes to the full Senate for consideration.

In addition to the tax checkoff bill,  Senate Bill 1 also passed out of committee yesterday. It directs every dollar the state collects above the most recent economic forecast to go to education.

Senator Bob Bacon, D-Fort Collins, a former teacher who has spent much of his time on the floor this year debating against cuts to education, is sponsor of SB 1.

“Our kids’ educational future is on the line, and every dollar counts. In a year where we are cutting every part of the budget, including schools, we have the opportunity to demonstrate our priorities. Families and businesses want us to invest in our children’s future as much as we can. This bill says, ‘we’re putting kids first,’ because Colorado should be the state of opportunity, and education will drive our future economy.”

SB 01 now goes to the Senate Finance Committee for consideration.

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