At Common Sense Institute, we know with a more prosperous Colorado individuals have more opportunities, families flourish, and communities thrive. CSI’s goal is to provide research that is based on the facts.
Please review the briefs linked below that cover issues facing the residents of Colorado Springs – budget guides and education.
Citizen’s Guide to the Colorado Springs Budget
The purpose of this report is to explain the funding mechanisms and recent spending history of the Colorado Springs municipal budget.
The guide also includes highlights the city budget’s influence over four priority local issues.
- Public Works
- Police and Fire
All the budget data in this report is from the Colorado Springs Annual Budgets and Budgets in Brief page on coloradosprings.gov/budget. Additional information about topics such as homelessness, housing, and crime is taken from other CSI reports on those subjects.
The El Paso County Budget Then and Now
- The El Paso County budget primarily encompasses services dedicated to residents across the entire county, such as the District Attorney’s Office, jail services, human services and public health. However, it also includes services focused primarily in unincorporated areas such as patrol, roads, parks and land use.
- Public safety represents 28% of the county’s total 2023 budget, totaling more than $132 million.
- Unrestricted General Fund public safety spending has grown from $61.3 million in 2013 to $89.2 million in 2023.
- Total spending per El Paso County resident, adjusted for inflation, has increased by 4% over the last 5 years from $597 to $623.
- Inflation adjusted spending per resident grew to $655 in 2021 and $726 in 2022 largely due to federal funding related to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Dollars and Data – Colorado Springs Education Funding and Achievement
- There must be an emphasis on improving both school quality and access across all districts since they represent such variety. Of the 15 school districts in the Colorado Springs area, the largest is Academy 20, which serves 22.2% of the area’s students. The next three largest districts by size—Falcon 49, Colorado Springs School District 11, and Harrison District 2—combine to serve 50.1% of the area’s students.
- School population growth is not uniform. While seven Colorado Springs area districts have shrunk, eight other school districts are growing significantly. District 11’s student population has shrunk by 21.6% while Falcon 49 has grown by 65.5% over the last 10 years.
- The Colorado Springs area is a choice-rich environment, with over 39 (or 15%) of the state’s 264 charter schools, based on 2020-2023 data. Through charter schools and open-enrollment policies, and the fact that so many school districts are in close proximity, families have the advantage of options beyond the assigned school dictated by their address. Of course, other barriers exist, like transportation and interdistrict application processes.
- In the Colorado Springs area, charter schools generally have better academic outcomes than the district-operated schools. In Colorado Springs District 11, 54.4% of charter students in the eighth grade met or exceeded grade level expectations in English Language Arts compared to 35.9% of eighth graders in district-run schools. Regarding the math assessment for third graders, 47% of students met or exceeded grade level expectations, compared to 35.7% in district-managed schools.
- Since recent federal funding is not sustainable long term, Colorado Springs School District 11 should consider major, student-centered modernization of district schools and look to high-performing charter schools in the area as part of the remedy. Declining enrollment trends, coupled with increased per-pupil funding, has led to significant increases in spending for remaining students in Colorado Springs School District 11.