Do you mari-wanna build a new school?

Feature Photo By: Andrea Reyna Rangeview is no stranger to construction, and marijuana taxes have indirectly funded the rebuilding of the new wing.

By: Andrea Reyna, Review Staff

The legalization of marijuana has influenced many, especially residents here in Colorado. Billions of dollars in revenue have been added to Colorado’s economy, and some wonder whether that has actually gone to our Colorado schools.

In voter-approved legislation, many taxes have been applied to marijuana. According to the Colorado Department of Revenue, marijuana taxes in 2017 totaled at roughly $247 million dollars. These taxes include a 2.9% state sales tax and a 10% special sales tax.

The tax which directly influences students is the 15% excise tax for K-12 public education. This excise tax isn’t as large as it seems, bringing in only $90.3 million to the overall state education funding, which is roughly $5.6 Billion.

Yet the excise tax is not the only way money from marijuana sales are going into school funds. The first $40 million from marijuana profit is promised to go to the BEST program each year. The BEST program, short for Building Excellent Schools Today, provides funds to rebuild schools and bring along major renovations to those who apply and are accepted. BEST grants are matching grants, however, so the district that applies must be able to match the funds they receive.

Junior Ariana Jones mentioned that she was glad this extra revenue was going to schools, saying, “I think… schools are finally getting some money, [which is great] ‘cause you can tell we’re kind of poor right now.”

Recent construction of the new Mrachek Middle school building can be seen from Rangeview’s campus. Mrachek is one of the many renovations in Aurora that receive their funding from marijuana revenue. (Andrea Reyna)

A school here in the Aurora Public Schools district, Mrachek Middle School, was recently authorized a $300 million bond. Mrachek applied with 53 other applicants, of which only 30 others were awarded a BEST grant. Mrachek received more than $16 million to help with the replacement and building of a new Mrachek Middle School.

Some students were unaware that the marijuana taxes indirectly helped fund our next door school.

“I haven’t really looked into it that much,” said Sophomore Jaid Knutson, “but in my uneducated opinion, yes, marijuana is benefiting schools in Colorado.”

Not only has the money gone to the school’s construction plan, but it has also gone to focus on mental health issues, substance abuse, recruiting officers, and providing affordable housing. This is an attempt at lessening the high population of homelessness in Colorado, as well as reducing incarceration rates.

“…The rest of it goes towards TV ads to convince teenagers that it’s a bad idea, focusing on, unintended consequences from drug use like, mental health issues,” Governor Hickenlooper, in an interview with Cheddar News, said. “So we’ve got 15 million dollars that goes to try to create wraparound services for, chronically homeless…”

The money Governor Hickenlooper was talking about comes from the Marijuana Tax Cash Fund (MTCF). The MTCF, along with paying for substance abuse programs, are going to small construction projects, such as the new recreation center being built next to Vassar Elementary.

Some issues with the City of Aurora doing this may arise, seeing as at a federal level, marijuana is still an illegal substance.

Sitting in front of Vassar Elementary school is the arising Central Recreation Center. It is expected that this aquatic-focused recreation center will be complete in fall 2018. (Andrea Reyna)

Despite this, in 2015, City Council designated $30 million dollars from marijuana tax revenues to design and build a recreation center on the Vassar and Telluride site. This recreation center is looking to be a two-story high aquatic-focused center, set to be done by fall 2018.

Overall, the city of Aurora has been granted the money to start small projects within and outside of schools with money from marijuana sales. Many students believe this benefit outweighs some of the cons of marijuana, such as senior Gavin Kunn.

Kunn stated, “It’s good for the economy, for people who need it for like medical reasons, and then the only negative is that my neighbors smell really bad, and it smells bad outside.”

The money granted for many of Aurora’s recent projects comes either directly or indirectly from marijuana revenue. Rebuilding of schools, such as the new Mrachek Middle School or the new wing construction here at Rangeview, along with other small projects, can be seen as a result here in Aurora.