Eagle County school board wants tax increase kept local | VailDaily.com

Eagle County school board wants tax increase kept local

The school board approved a resolution that will keep the $144 million of new tax money it's requesting as local as possible. Red Sandstone Elementary School principal Marcelle Laidman explains some of the things the money will be used for at her school.
Daily file photo |

Keeping the money local

The school district is asking voters for permission to borrow $144 million to fund construction and remodel projects.

Local firms get the inside track on some of that money if they have:

• An office location within the district boundaries with proximity to work sites;

• Presence within the community including staff with students attending Eagle County schools;

• Demonstrated understanding of the local market and subcontractor pool including a local participation plan;

• Ability to respond to warranty and future work requests;

• Commitment to the community and schools, demonstrated through participation in local philanthropy and mentoring opportunities.

EAGLE — The school board wants local firms to reap as much potential construction money as possible.

The school board unanimously approved a measure giving local companies the inside track on construction and remodel jobs to be funded by the $144 million they’re asking voters to let them borrow.

That resolution says: “If the district is successful in passing the Bond Question 3B … all bidding processes … shall include a system for awarding preferential points to firms with a demonstrated connection to the local community.”

The local-preference process is not new. School board members voted to emphasize it with the largest tax increase in Eagle County history on the line.

That $144 million bond debt would cost a total of $230 million when it’s paid off — around $18 million a year.

Two Questions

Voters will decide in November if they’re willing to raise their taxes to:

• 3A: Provide an additional $8 million in operating revenue annually. None of that money would be spent on the district’s central administration.

• 3B: Allow the school district to borrow $144 million to rebuild and renovate building and other facilities.

Approving both would increase residential property taxes by $40 per year for every $100,000 of a property’s assessed value.

Following the money

The school district has said its shortage-of-money trail begins with the Great Recession, although no one seems to be able to explain what was so great about it. The school board’s current quest began after the fallout settled following the slashing of $14 million and 90 jobs throughout the course of three years.

The school district started down its current ballot-question road in October 2015 when district officials took their show on the road for a long series of public meetings, gathering ideas and input.

When the school board voted in August to put both questions on the ballot, Matt Scherr, Minturn mayor and public school advocate, stated emphatically that help will not come from the state Legislature or the Department of Education.

Scherr’s calculations are correct. In 2010, government funding was cut at all levels, and will stay cut because Colorado’s TABOR Amendment caps tax revenue increases at population growth plus inflation.

What’s in it for me?

If voters approve 3B, then two schools will be completely replaced: Eagle Valley Elementary School and Eagle Valley Middle School. Red Sandstone Elementary School in Vail will get a major renovation.

All schools would get security and safety upgrades, and some would receive long-deferred maintenance — $12 million worth, school district officials calculated last fall. Most schools would get improved technology.

School buildings would also be expanded to prepare for projected growth.

Eagle Valley High School is home to 900 students this year, up from 700 three years ago, and will pass 1,000 students next year.

Eagle County’s population could grow another 41,000 by 2040, according to data from Colorado state demographer, much of that in the western end of the Eagle River Valley, according to a conglomerate of data, including Colorado’s State Demographer Elizabeth Garner’s office and other sources, including the Northwest Colorado Council of Governments.

The east end of the valley, from Edwards east, is projected for flat to declining student population between now and 2023, the data projected.

Last summer’s state count put Eagle County estimated population at 53,303. State Demographer Elizabeth Garner said 2015 is on track to be Eagle County’s fastest growing year since 2006.

We’ve been through this before. Eagle County’s population grew by 30,000 people between 1980 and 2000.

When the recession hit, Eagle County’s population dropped by around 12,000 people, as the county hemorrhaged 6,000 jobs, mostly in construction. State data indicates that Eagle County’s 2015 labor force grew 6 percent over the year before. Across a five-county region — Eagle, Grand, Jackson, Pitkin and Summit counties — the region gained 4,826 jobs, a 7.1 percent increase. Much of that growth was in construction and agriculture.

Staff Writer Randy Wyrick can be reached at 970-748-2935 or rwyrick@vaildaily.com.

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