Children in Donna Young’s kindergarten class read along with her at Boulder’s Creekside Elementary School on Tuesday. A portion of the new tax
Children in Donna Young's kindergarten class read along with her at Boulder's Creekside Elementary School on Tuesday. A portion of the new tax money will go to add full-day kindergarten at Creekside and two other Boulder Valley schools. (Mark Leffingwell/Daily Camera)

The economy is still weak, but Boulder Valley voters came through strong for schools.

In Boulder County, voters were passing the Boulder Valley School District's Ballot Issue 3A with 62 percent in favor and 38 percent against, based on results available at 1:30 a.m. Broomfield County's final tally had voters defeating the measure, with 54 percent voting "no" and 46 percent "yes." Gilpin County also said "no," with 66 percent against.

But with all three counties combined, the measure was roundly passing.

"It's very exciting," said Josie Heath, one of three co-chairs campaigning for the ballot issue and president of the Community Foundation Serving Boulder County. "I know a lot of people really thought about it, but people made the stretch to invest in our kids. I'm so proud to live in a community like this."

The measure raises property taxes equal to 25 percent of the school district's educational program, or about $22.5 million.

Boulder Valley's plans for the revenue call for spending $12 million to restore budget cuts and $5.5 million to increase teacher salaries. Another $5 million is earmarked for an early childhood initiative that would add all-day kindergarten to three elementary schools -- Emerald in Broomfield, and Creekside and Whittier in Boulder -- and almost double preschool spots for at-risk students.

"We want to give kids the start they need," Heath said.

The approval provides a steady source of increased income for the district. Asking for a percentage allows the dollar amount to increase or decrease as the amount the district spends on its educational program increases or decreases. Voters in the past approved a dollar amount that stays the same each year and doesn't adjust for inflation.

Though critics said now isn't the time for tax hikes, supporters said approving the increase will minimize the effects of deep state budget cuts -- and keep the school system strong so it remains a selling point for businesses considering locating here.

"It's good for the economy and our broader community," said Boulder Valley school board President Ken Roberge.

For the current school year, the district has cut $11 million from its general fund budget. Mid-year cuts from the state also are possible, while more state K-12 education funding cuts are expected next school year.

"A lot of this is just trying to keep up with declining funding," Roberge said.

Boulder Valley School District voters traditionally have said "yes" to tax increases. Along with the new increase, the district receives $32.6 million a year through three other mill levy overrides.

"People demand a lot from us, but they're also willing to support us when we need it," Roberge said.