A group looking at maintenance needs of existing schools and studying future capital needs has recommended Durango School District 9-R seek voter approval for $85 million in bonds in the November General Election.
The Long-Range Planning Committee, which has been meeting for more than two years, issued its final report and recommendations to the Board of Education on Tuesday during an online Zoom meeting.
Among the recommendations from the committee:
Seek $10 million for safety and security upgrades throughout the district, including new entryway vestibules, enhancing perimeter safety, improving traffic flow and installing locks that can be set from the inside in classrooms.Seek $23 million to repair existing issues at schools stemming from deferred maintenance, including replacing old heating and air conditioning units, replacing leaky roofs, upgrading lighting, improving energy efficiency and replacing windows.Seek $40 million to rebuild and replace the outdated Miller Middle School, which is considered inadequate and too costly to fix with remodels and upgrades.Seek $9 million to build a career technical center that would provide modern classrooms and working areas for career pursuits, such as welding, carpentry, auto mechanics and culinary arts.Seek $2 million for technology upgrades, including new computers and devices for students, replacing classroom network hubs, wiring overhead projectors for network access, and installing fiber optics to schools now connected by radio.Seek $1 million for transportation needs, including replacing seven aging buses.Seek a variable amount to address capital needs at the charter schools – Animas High School, Mountain Middle School and Juniper Elementary.Deputy Superintendent Andy Burns said the specific capital items that will be sought for funding in the bond will ultimately be up to the school board, and items could still be added or dropped.
The school board is expected to determine whether to proceed with an effort to seek bonds at its meeting slated for July 14.
Three different bond issuances from the early 2000s are expected to be retired between 2022 and 2024, which would allow 9-R to issue $85 million in new bonds without increasing its mill levy, which means homeowners and business owners would not see an increase in their property tax bills.
If 9-R seeks an $85 million bond issue and voters reject it, homeowners and business owners would see gradually lowering property tax bills that would culminate in 2024 when the owner of a home worth $500,000 would see a savings of about $130 a year.
In July, school board members will want to ensure they have an accurate gauge of community support for the bond request and that people are identified and willing to lead a campaign committee to support the political effort to get bond passage, Burns said.
The board also would determine what items will be placed in the bond for funding.
The COVID-19 pandemic killed plans for 9-R to hold meetings at each school to show maintenance needs and safety and security upgrades that would be funded with new bonds. Board President Shere Byrd suggested the meetings go forward this summer perhaps virtually to accommodate COVID-19 restrictions.
She also suggested board members be specific in drafting language for the bond question should they decide to move forward.
“People want to know where their money is going. There can’t be any ambiguity about this,” she said.