Colorado school districts only receive fraction of marijuana tax dollars

AURORA, Colo. -- Colorado school districts say you might be inhaling too much weed if you think marijuana taxes are making up their funding gap.

Almost every district along the Front Range is pushing bond or mill levies at the ballot box in November.

Last year, a combination of medical and recreational pot taxes generated about $134 million for Colorado.  But that’s just a fraction of the $2.73 billion eight of the largest school districts are seeking from voters in November.

Aurora Public Schools wants $300 million for capital improvements.  It needs $40 million alone to rebuild Mrachek Middle School, which is 40 years old and was built with open classrooms, with no walls separating one class from another.

“What we know about middle school kids; distractions can happen and we want to create spaces that provide the best learning environment and minimize distractions and an open environment may not be the best place for that," Superintendent Rico Munn said.

Munn’s district is better off than most because it’s been awarded a marijuana tax grant known as the Colorado’s BEST grants.

The money would help offset Mrachek Middle School renovations, but Aurora only gets the $16 million BEST grant if voters pass the district’s $300 million bond.

Colorado only sets aside $40 million in marijuana revenue for all of its schools.

“It's a small amount when it's spread across the state and our 178 districts,” Munn said.

In addition, Colorado’s $134 million in marijuana revenue barely makes up 1 percent of the state’s $10 billion General Revenue Fund.

“It's in no way replacing our income tax or solving the holes in education that we have cut from our state budget in the last several years,” said Chris Stiffler, an economist with the Colorado Fiscal Institute.

Marijuana revenues that do go to schools are to mostly smaller, rural districts.