The school bond voters will need to pass for Montezuma-Cortez School District Re-1 to receive the funds from the Building Excellent Schools Today (BEST) grant to build a new high school would cost many of them less each month than the price of a single car wash.
Last week, Re-1 said it was informed by its consultants that if the bond is approved by voters, taxes on each $100,000 of assessed valuation of a residential property would increase by $2.20 a month, or $26.40 a year.
The county reported to Re-1 on Friday that oil and gas valuation will go up by about $60 million due to increased production, largely at Kinder Morgan.
This commercial increase would lower the mill levy the residential property owners would pay, resulting in the residential tax impact of the BEST bond match on a $100,000 home to likely be a bit less than $2 per month.
As an example, if the mill was 4.5 on a $100,000 residential property, the increase would be $2.99 a month or $35.82 a year, which would generate almost $2.15 million a year or $42 million for the 20-year bond, said County Assessor Mark Vanderpool who was factoring in the increase in oil and gas valuation.
Re-1 Superintendent Alex Carter said the initial $2.20 a month figure came from consultants the district is working with.
Vanderpool said business and agriculture property taxes would be 3.64 times higher than what residential properties would pay.
In addition Vanderpool said oil and gas businesses pay 50 percent of all of the property taxes collected, and that Kinder Morgan makes up 95 percent of all oil and gas businesses in the county.
Vanderpool said Re-1 is fortunate that all of Kinder Morgan activities is included in its district boundaries, which would not be the case for either the Mancos or Dolores School District.
Re-1 was awarded a BEST grant valued at close to $21 million earlier this summer. In order to receive that funding, the district must find matching funds. Re-1 is now asking residents to approve a bond to pay the match.
Carter said the minimal tax increase is an extremely small price to pay when looking at what the money would build.
“We want safe and healthy school buildings for our students to learn,” he said.
The superintendent said the proposed new high school, which would be built south of the Walmart store on Sligo Street, is a necessity rather than a want. The current high school is more than 50 years old.
He said some of the school buildings in Cortez were built in the middle of the last century by grandfathers of people still living in Cortez, because education was important to them. Carter said now is the time for the current community to do the same work their grandfathers did in building schools for the next few generations.
“We have to step up to build the school (to better) educate the students,” he said.
Carter said he hopes the voters will see the benefits in paying for a school at half price and understand that a new high school would still have to be built sometime in the near future at full price if this bond failed.
“It is in the best interests to build a new high school. We are doing what is best for our students,” he said. “This is just an incredible opportunity to build a high school for half price. That will be our best push.”
If voters approve the new high school, it would have a football field and other sporting amenities on site, and Cortez Middle School would no longer have to share CMS fields with the high school.
“We have 700 kids at the middle school who need access to the fields,” he said.
If the proposed new high school is built, Carter said the current school at Seventh and Chestnut streets would be demolished before the land was sold. Part of the projected cost of the building project includes tearing down the existing high school.
He said the hope is the school district would be able to sell the land to a developer who wants to build something there.
Any funds received from the property sale where the high school currently is located would go to the school district, Carter said.
“We don’t want to have another building sitting in town that is not being used,” he said, referring to the historic Calkins School at First and Beech Streets, which remains unoccupied and is currently uninhabitable.