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  Volume No. 12 Issue No. 11 November 2015  

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Feature Stories
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  Marijuana taxes to fund school building
  By Jason Gray

   Proposition AA to legalize recreational marijuana passed statewide in Colorado in November 2013, and set excise and sales taxes for retail marijuana sales. Although El Paso County and Colorado Springs have voted to ban retail establishments within the county and city, local schools will still get a financial benefit from recreational legalization.
   The Building Excellent Schools Today Act was passed in 2008 to assist districts statewide and the Colorado School for the Deaf and the Blind in Colorado Springs with grants and bond guarantees to replace, upgrade or repair classroom buildings. The Colorado Department of Education estimates districts in the state are behind by about $18 billion in deferred maintenance expenses and deficient buildings’ replacement costs statewide.
   The first $40 million garnered each year by recreational cannabis excise taxes are earmarked for the BEST fund (as mandated in Amendment 64). School districts, charter schools and CSDB can apply each year to help pay for capital expenses. In the 2013 grant year, Peyton District 23-JT received $174,000 to upgrade the HVAC and security systems at the elementary school. In 2012, Calhan District RJ-1 received more than $1 million for safety and security upgrades.
   Falcon School District 49 has never received a BEST grant, according to the lists available on the CDE website. The district has not applied for one since 2011, when district staff requested $8 million for an addition to Horizon Middle School. “District 49 does not anticipate the filing of BEST grant applications in the near future,” said Dustin Senger, acting public information officer.
   Assuming the state Legislature continues to fund the BEST program by the same amount from state land trust funds and the Colorado Lottery, the additional $40 million from cannabis retail taxes will increase available construction and repair dollars by about 40 percent, compared to last year.
   Taxes from marijuana sales could take the school districts to a new financial “high.”


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