Union activists opposed to Douglas County, Colorado's innovative school board have claimed the Douglas County School District (DCSD) has ruined the local housing market, despite record home sales and increased property value within the county.
Rumors circulated by union activists include the lie that potential homebuyers with school-aged children have asked realtors to look elsewhere because of "the crazy school board" and that realtors who show homes to this demographic have avoided Douglas County altogether. These allegations amount to little more than propaganda when viewed in conjunction with the most recent rankings and reports for Douglas County.
Statistics and trends reveal the growth and expansion of both DCSD and the local real estate market as they work in tandem with each other.
When asked by Media Trackers about the rumors of hampered home sales in Douglas County due to actions by the school board in the last year, Brad Smith, owner of Home Smart Realty Group and local Colorado housing broker who specializes in Douglas County home real estate, said, "I don't know where these rumors are coming from or who would spread them, because they are simply not true."
Smith, who manages over 1,000 real estate agents in Douglas County, went on to explain how all the latest trends show quite the opposite: "Specifically in the last year, the Douglas County housing market has improved. So much so, prices and home values are increasing at a rapid pace in reflection with the high demand for homes here."
Smith chuckled, "You'll have a tough time even finding a home on the market under $500,000 now."
A large portion of Home Smart Realty Group's agents live and work in Douglas County because, as Smith said, "Here, the 'merchandise' is flying off the shelves - this is where homes are selling." Smith also noted the rapid turnaround in Douglas County and how difficult it is to keep houses on the market for a standard length of time. "Douglas County is perhaps the hottest housing market in Colorado right now; it is thriving. Highlands Ranch, Parker, Castle Rock, Lone Tree: pretty much every area of the county is experiencing some of the fastest turnaround I've ever seen."
Actual market trend data confirm Smith's observations as a realtor. Every major city or suburb in Douglas County shows exponential growth in home value when broken down by increments of the last one, three, five, or even ten years. In Highlands Ranch, average home sales prices have increased by more than $100,000 in the last ten years. The same goes for Castle Rock, Parker, and Lone Tree.
The strength of the local housing market is mirrored by the continued success of the DCSD. Fitch Ratings awarded the Douglas County School District with an AA+ credit rating for 2013, giving a nod to the district's fortified financial reserves, strong management team, and solid economic foundation.
"The district's financial cushion has improved significantly in each of the last two fiscal years, driven by large operating surpluses and conservative financial management."
The Fitch report praised the district's management team, saying they have displayed a comprehensive, conservative budgeting approach designed to reduce the district's reliance on periodic voter-approved levy overrides historically obtained to address growth-related financial pressures or fill budget shortfalls. The report also noted that voters' rejection of a large bond authorization in 2011 has not hampered the district's ability to serve its growing enrollment base, given an ongoing strategic alliance with charter schools and existing capacity in district schools.
EdNews Colorado, a respected source on the latest information in local and statewide education by those on both sides of the aisle, also released an article last month entitled "Continued Student Growth Predicted." The piece highlighted Douglas County as one of the strongest areas of student enrollment growth in the state in the coming years.
The local business community has also come in support of programs enacted by the Douglas County school board, further solidifying the mutual benefit and success between the strength of the school district and other aspects of the community, like real estate and business. The Castle Rock Economic Development Council endorsed DCSD's Pay For Performance program at the end of 2012, which incentivizes employees for hard work.
“We know excellent schools are one of the top reasons that companies choose to locate in Douglas County,” said Frank Gray, President, Castle Rock EDC. “We applaud DCSD for their ongoing commitment to excellence and we believe pay-for-performance will continue to improve our schools.”
The Douglas County School District has engaged in an innovative process to reimagine K-12 over the past year. Last summer, the school board effectively severed the local union's collective bargaining rights and voted not renew its contract with the union. Those opposed to innovations in our schools and naysayers of the school board's positions have taken to the internet to complain about how the decrease in union involvement and control will hurt students and other areas of the Douglas County community, but they have little to show of their efforts thus far.
This post was originally featured at Media Trackers Colorado.