So, here we are in an off-year election with only 5 things on this ballot. I know many people are asking, why should I bother to mess with this, especially since I have no idea what Proposition HH and Proposition II are all about and who the heck are these people running for the School Board and why should I care? Many people do not bother to vote in these off-year elections. They don’t seem to believe the issues in the off-year election have any impact on them. Well, the Democrat-controlled Colorado State Legislature is counting on that in order to pass the two Democrat-sponsored propositions that are on this ballot. We sent out an email on October 20, 2023 giving our recommendations on the issues on the ballot. These are the recommendations we sent out:
Proposition HH – Vote NO.
Proposition II – Vote NO.
School Board Election:
District 2 –Tony Bohling.
District 3 – Beth Suppes.
District 4 – Hardy Hutto.
If you don’t want to know anymore, you can stop reading here. But if you want to know why we made these recommendations, read on.
The two propositions will increase your taxes, over time, decrease what the State government is currently required to return to the taxpayers of Colorado and increase the size of state government. Let me try to break these down.
Proposition HH was passed by the state legislature as a referred measure on the November 7, 2023 General Election ballot. This means that the legislature referred it to the voters. NOTE: The legislature does not need voter approval to reduce taxes, but rather, only if they are going to increase taxes. So, if Proposition HH is going to reduce taxes, why are they asking the voters to approve that? I think this alone tells us that we should be voting NO on this proposition. But let me continue parsing this issue for you. The full title of the ballot measure is, “SHALL THE STATE REDUCE PROPERTY TAXES FOR HOMES AND BUSINESSES, INCLUDING EXPANDING PROPERTY TAX RELIEF FOR SENIORS, AND BACKFILL COUNTIES, WATER DISTRICTS, FIRE DISTRICTS, AMBULANCE AND HOSPITAL DISTRICTS, AND OTHER LOCAL GOVERNMENTS AND FUND SCHOOL DISTRICTS BY USING A PORTION OF THE STATE SURPLUS UP TO THE PROPOSITION HH CAP AS DEFINED IN THIS MEASURE?"
The actual bill, SB 23-303, passed on May 8, 2023 by the State Legislature, that placed this issue on the ballot is 48 pages long. It was passed on a strictly partisan basis. In the House 39 Democrats voted for the bill and 7 Democrats voted against the bill with all 19 Republicans walking out and refusing to vote on the bill. In the Senate, all 23 Democrats voted for the bill and all 12 Republicans voted against the bill. The Republican House members walked out was in protest to the way the bill was rushed through the Legislature and because the Speaker of the House, Julie McCluskie repeatedly use House Rule 14 to limit debate on the measure. Governor Jared Polis signed the bill on May 24, 2023 – putting it on the ballot on the November 7, 2023 election. To see the full bill go to the following link: (https://leg.colorado.gov/sites/default/files/2023a_303_signed.pdf)
This 48-page bill is very complicated and has numerous parts. Even the ballot summary (the language) that is on the ballot is complicated. The website Ballotpedia rates the different ballot issue summaries on readability and understandability. The Flesch Reading Ease (FRE) formula rates the readability of the ballot language and the Flesch-Kincaid Grade Level (FKGL) formula provides a rating that gives the level of education required to read and understand the ballot language. The FRE formula produces a score between a negative (-) number and 100, with the highest score (100) representing a 5th-grade equivalent reading level and scores at or below zero representing college graduate-equivalent reading level. Therefore, the higher the score, the easier the text is to read. The FKGL formula produces a score equivalent to the estimated number of years of U.S. education required to understand a text. A score of five estimates that a U.S. 5th grade student would be able to read and comprehend a text, while a score of 20 estimates that a person with 20 years of U.S. formal education would be able to read and comprehend a text. Proposition HH had a FRE score of 8 and a FKGL score of 26. These ratings indicate this is a not very readable ballot issue summary and it would take 26 years of education to understand it. Gee, I wonder why this was written in such a complicated and confusing manner? To read the full Ballotpedia analysis of this issue go to the following link: (Colorado Proposition HH, Property Tax Changes and Revenue Change Measure (2023) - Ballotpedia
If passed this measure would make various changes to state property taxes and changes to state revenue limits. The various parts that are actually in the bill include the following:
Reduces property tax rates, a very small amount, and only temporarily.
Creates two new subclasses of residential property, effective in 2025.
Provides funds, from the current Tabor surpluses to local governments, to make up for the decreased property tax revenues (referred to as backfilling).
Creates a limit on property tax revenue.
Increases the cap on state revenue – this is the increased tax portion of this proposition. This increased cap can and will continue to increase, without additional voter approval, allowing the state to eventually completely eliminate the Tabor refunds.
This proposition is extremely complex. Because of that most of the analyses of the proposition are extremely long. The Colorado 2023 State Ballot Information Booklet, the Blue Book, is 13 pages long. I believe the legislature intended to overwhelm voters and get them to vote on the simple advertising tag that the proposition will reduce your property taxes. But it’s important to know that while it will reduce the tax assessment rate for residential properties in the short term, they will rise after a few short years. Also, it will allow the state to hold onto money it would otherwise have to refund under the Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights. Some of that retained money would go to local governments and school districts to backfill lost property taxes, with the state putting the rest into the state education fund. This proposition is intended to eliminate TABOR and give the state more control over taxes. I also think it is interesting to note that according to the October 18, 2023 Delta County Independent, even the liberal Paonia Town Board passed a resolution opposing Proposition HH. Now that is saying something!
A final note on Proposition HH. There is no doubt that the increase in property assessments with the planned increase in property taxes is a big concern. Republicans recognized this a s problem in the last session of the Legislature. Their answer was a two-year timeout. House Bill 23-1054 would have skipped the 2022 valuation, waited for the economy and housing market to stabilize, and allowed taxes for another two years to be based on the lower 2020 rate. This solution did not require referral to the voters and could have been in effect now. The Democrat supermajority in the state legislature voted down this bill in its first committee. Instead, they came up with the complicated, unreadable SB 23-303 and the resultant Proposition HH. Please do not vote for Proposition HH!
The second proposition on the ballot is Proposition II. This proposition was passed by the state legislature as a referred measure on the November 7, 2023 General Election ballot. The full title of the ballot measure is:
WITHOUT RAISING TAXES, MAY THE STATE RETAIN AND SPEND REVENUES FROM TAXES ON CIGARETTES, TOBACCO, AND OTHER NICOTINE PRODUCTS AND MAINTAIN TAX RATES ON CIGARETTES, TOBACCO, AND OTHER NICOTINE PRODUCTS AND USE THESE REVENUES TO INVEST TWENTY-THREE MILLION SIX HUNDRED FIFTY THOUSAND DOLLARS TO ENHANCE THE VOLUNTARY COLORADO PRESCHOOL PROGRAM AND MAKE IT WIDELY AVAILABLE FOR FREE INSTEAD OF REDUCING THESE TAX RATES AND REFUNDING REVENUES TO CIGARETTE WHOLESALERS, TOBACCO PRODUCT DISTRIBUTORS, NICOTINE PRODUCTS DISTRIBUTORS, AND OTHER TAXPAYERS, FOR EXCEEDING AN ESTIMATE INCLUDED IN THE BALLOT INFORMATION BOOKLET FOR PROPOSITION EE?
This is another purely partisan issue being pushed by the Democrats. The measure was introduced in the State Legislature as House Bill 23-1290 on April 10, 2023. The measure was passed in the House on April 24, 2023, in a vote of 42-21 with two representatives excused. The Senate passed the bill on May 5, 2023, by a vote of 22-13. The measure was passed along party lines with Democrats voting in favor and Republicans voting against. And again, it is written to mislead and confuse the voters. The website Ballotpedia also rated this ballot measure with the FRE and FKGL rating systems Proposition II had a FRE score of -52 and a FKGL score of 43. As a reminder this meant that the ballot language for Proposition is completely unreadable and requires 43 years of education to understand. In fact, Ballot Measure Proposition II had the WORST rating in all the elections in the entire country for this election. Now that is saying something. This measure deserves a NO vote on that principle alone.
However, let’s look into it a bit more.
The information in The Colorado 2023 State Ballot Information Booklet, the Blue Book is only 5 pages long for this measure. However, it does offer the following arguments against Proposition II;
"1) Proposition II expands the government unnecessarily. Taxpayers are being asked to give up this refund and pay higher tax rates in the future in order to pay for a program that is already fully funded to the level that voters approved in Proposition EE. When the state collects more revenue than voters approved, it should provide taxpayer refunds and lower tax rates, rather than expand government programs.
2) Proposition II is a tax increase. Taxes on cigarettes, tobacco products, and nicotine products impose a financial burden on people suffering from addiction, particularly for people with lower incomes. Rejecting Proposition II will reduce the high taxes on these products and provide tax relief to Coloradans."
I am sure there are many people who believe tobacco products should be banned altogether. If that can’t happen, then tax the hell out if them. I can understand the tendency to look at this issue that way. I am not a tobacco user myself and never have been. But this has gotten ridiculous. Letting the state attack the behaviors and users they don’t approve of is extremely problematic. It also imposes a burden on people suffering from addiction by increasing taxes. So, while some of us may be inclined to “vote against nicotine and tobacco’, I think we need to vote against the expansion of government, against increases in taxes and against encouraging government regulating our behaviors. Vote NO, on proposition II.
Now to get to the School Board races. School Board races, like municipal elections, are considered non-partisan. That means the political affiliation of the candidates are not listed on the ballot. But, as we all know, like most things in our world today, the school board elections are political. So, I can tell you, that all four candidates running in this election are registered Republicans. So, this truly is not a black and white political election. In addition, two of the candidates are running unopposed. That means I’ll focus mainly on the contested election in District 4 – Dan Burke v. Hardy Hutto. But first, I’ll give a little information about the two candidates running for the uncontested seats. The information I am presenting comes from the School District biographies on the School District website, a October 25, 2023 newspaper article in the Delta County Independent on Dan Burke and Hardy Hutto, a October 17, 2023 article in the High Country Shopper and the Delta County School District Candidate Forum held on October 25, 2023.
Tony Bohling is running unopposed. This seat is currently held by Linda Ewing, who was elected in 2019. She decided to not run for another term. Mr. Bohling did not respond to most of the questionnaires by various publications. However, the voter registration rolls show that Mr. Bohling is 63 years-old and lives in Delta. I also watched the School Board Candidate Forum and Mr. Bohling gave some information there. He graduated from Delta High School in 1979. Went to Western State College and graduated with a teaching degree in 1985. He did student teaching in Delta and Cedaredge and coached football and basketball at Cedaredge for 4 years. However, he did not end up with a career in teaching. He worked for the City of Delta Parks Department for 33 years. Near the end of his 33-year career with the City of Delta, he also worked at Lincoln Elementary School as a custodian for 2 years. This experience gave him insights as to what is going on in the schools. His wife and 2 adult children or all teachers. He has a strong interest in education. His top priority for the School District is to have the schools prepare students to succeed in life, whether that is working in a trade or going to college. Have the ability to write a check and balance a budget.
Beth Suppes is running unopposed. Beth was elected in 2019 to her first term on the Delta County School Board. She was born and raised in Delta and graduated from Delta High in 1994.
Beth and her husband, Don, live in Eckert with their twin sons who currently attend school in the district; they also have adult children who attended Delta Schools prior. Together, Beth and Don own and operate their family-owned business that was established in 2002.
Beth acquired her substitute license in 2002 and has worked as both a substitute teacher and a paraprofessional. That experience helped gain valuable insight for Beth on the inner workings of public schools.
Beth's priority as a Delta County School Board member is to be a good fiduciary of the taxpayer’s money along with instilling confidence to our community in the proper management of school resources and staff. Her focus is also to assure a safe and welcoming environment to each student and staff member while providing an education which will allow each student to succeed in their future endeavors; whether it be going on to the military, into the workforce or to attend higher education.
This seat is being contested. Incumbent and current School Board President Dan Burke is being opposed by Hardy Hutto.
Dan Burke was appointed by the Board of Education to fill a vacated position in March 2019. He graduated from Oswego High School in 1970 and received his BSED degree in Biology from Pittsburg State University in Pittsburg, KS. He obtained his Master’s Degree in Educational Administration from Wichita State University in 1980 and his Type D endorsement from Denver University in 1983. Dan and his wife moved to Hotchkiss in 1982 and reside in the Rogers Mesa area.
Dan taught and coached Football, Basketball, & Track at Hotchkiss High and one year at Paonia Middle School. He then became Hotchkiss High School Principal for six years and District Assessment Coordinator for five years. He spent his last fourteen years as Assistant Principal/Guidance Counselor at Hotchkiss High. Dan retired from education with thirty-five years of service with seven of those years teaching/coaching in Kansas. Dan is married to his wife Bev who also taught and coached at Hotchkiss High and Hotchkiss Middle School and retired with thirty-one years of service. Bev and Dan have two children who both graduated from Hotchkiss High in 2002 and 2006. Dan comes from an educational family where his dad was superintendent and has several brothers and a sister who taught in Kansas.
Having various positions in Delta County School District allows me a unique perspective of our schools. I wish to continue to make Delta County School District an outstanding district and strive to provide a safe and relevant education to ALL students and become productive and responsible citizens.
Hardy Hutto - Hardy Hutto and his wife Whitney live near Cedaredge. This area is part of School Board District 4. He is a 41-year-old father of three boys, two of which are currently in Delta County schools. He graduated from Cedaredge High School in 2001. He attended Garden City Community College and the University of Arlington in Texas graduating with a degree in business. He attended both colleges on baseball scholarships. He was drafted by the Cincinnati Reds baseball team but an injury prevented him from pursuing a baseball career.
Hardy and his wife, Whitney, have owned and operated a concrete and excavation business, ConEx Company, for 20 years. He believes this experience of working with large construction projects and the costs associated with such projects will help the Board make better decisions on these types of projects. He cites the North Fork High School ball park restroom project, which was originally bid as a million-dollar project and was later awarded as a nearly half-million-dollar project, as an example. He also noted that the contractors who are bidding on the School District projects are out-of-town and out-of-state contractors. He would like to see the District work harder at supporting the community with work. He believes the District could do better planning so that the work is not under such a time crunch and the District ends up accepting higher bids. Hardy believes his construction experience would be an asset to the School Board in evaluating these large construction projects.
Hardy’s priorities for the District are increased transparency on decisions being made by the School Board, allow for more public input into decisions and revive traditional subjects such as agriculture, other trade-type subjects and home economics. Hardy believes he brings a totally different aspect to the School Board, one built on a pile of life lessons.
This has become a fairly long blog. It has been one of the most difficult that I have written. Trying to make Proposition HH, in particular and, as well as Proposition II understandable has been very challenging. I hope I have given you sufficient information to be able to cast your votes with sufficient knowledge. As I noted in the introduction, this is considered an off-year election (or non-presidential election), so many people do not vote. This would be a huge mistake, especially since one of the state-wide ballot issues has a major potential to have a negative impact on all of us. I believe the Democrats in the State Legislature are counting on a low voter turn-out in order to get the awful Proposition HH to pass. In the 2021, just under 44% of the voters in the county voted – 10,070 out of 22,902 registered voters. Please make sure you vote and encourage your friends and neighbors to vote. I know many people are saying, “I don’t do politics.” That’s interesting. Merriam-Webster lists the following as the first definition of “politics” – The art or science of government. So, people who don’t vote don’t want to be involved in how we are governed or represented in government? If you don’t want to be involved in politics, I guarantee that politics are still going to be involved with you. Be a part of the decisions that are being made by our government. Vote!
Our next DCRCC monthly meeting is on November 7, 2023 at the Surface Creek Community Church in Austin. The meeting starts at 6:00 pm and we try to finish by 7:30 pm. We will be drawing the winning tickets for our Scholarship Raffle at that meeting and since this is also Election Day, we’ll be keeping track of the election results. Hope to see you there.
Chairman, Delta County Republican Central Committee
PS –Remember you can donate to the Delta County Republican Central Committee, by going to our website https://www.deltacoloradogop.com Since we won’t have the Headquarters open for most of this year, donations are critical in helping build up our bank account so we have funds for supporting our candidates in the 2024 election. An individual donation of $20 is a great small donation. You can also donate in person at our monthly meeting. Thank you! db