School district considering a tax hike
An question seeking a limited tax increase for the Eagle County School District may appear on the November ballot.
The school board is considering asking voters to approve a tax increase that would to away in two years.
“There will be no change to what people are paying now,” said John Brendza, superintendent of the Eagle County School District. “The (tax increase) is an effort put in place to expedite projects that would take us some time to complete.”
The 2-mill increase on property taxes would “sunset” after that, Brendza said.
The new tax would amount to $159.59 for every $100,000 in a homes value – actually a reduction from a previous bond issue $201.13 per every $100,000 of a home’s value.
A mill is one-tenth of 1 cent.
Colorado law allows for a tax-increase ballot question as provided by the Underwood Amendment, said Pam Boyd, spokeswoman for the school district. Such a tax question , she said, allows for collection of up to 10 mills for three years and mandates the levy sunsets at the conclusion of the three years.
“What’s good about this bond is that there’s no financing problems with it,” said Boyd. “There’s no interest or financing costs attached to it.”
The mechanism provides funds for smaller capital needs, she said.
“This tax increase allows us to do smaller things that we don’t have the funds to do,” said Barbara Schierkolk, president of the Eagle County School Board. “And it’s capped. It has an end – it’s not forever.”
The district made its final payment in December on its 1992 bond issue, she said. A new debt could be presented which would replace the retired debt.
“We have an old bond issue that’s being retired,” Boyd said. “The new debt would replace the old debt.”
$4.3 million increase
Voters might be asked to increase the total taxes collected by $4.3 million annually for the 2004 and 2005 tax years. The extra funds would go toward special buildings and new technology for the school district, she said.
The board has been talking about the possibility of a bond election since October, she said. The school board has not yet voted on whether to add the ballot question, but plans to make a decision at the next board meeting at 6 p.m. today in Eagle.
“There’s a lot of structural things that come up that need a lot of attention,” Brendza said. “It’s become a real challenge to stay on top of it and keep the buildings in good shape for the future.”
Because the district’s capital needs at present are for maintenance and technology projects, district officials have recommended consideration of a different type of election this fall, added Boyd.
“It’s little projects that need attention but take a long time to get done,” Boyd said. “We have 15 buildings that we’re responsible for, and it takes a long time to get through that project list.”
Some of the items on the project list include painting schools, improving drainage systems and installing exhaust systems and heated sidewalks, as well as replacing lockers, desks and resurfacing gymnasium floors.
“The biggest capital improvements project is a transportation facility for the west end,” Boyd said. “We’ve flat outgrown the one we have now. It’s been here for more than 20 years.”
Schierkolk described the district transportation system as “cramped.”
“What do we do with transportation?” Schierkolk said. “We’re looking for buildings at this end of the valley.”
Because the student population increased by only 30 students this year, district officials said they could not make a case for a building new schools, recommending against such a ballot question this November.
“If approved, we’ll prioritize the health and safety projects first,” Boyd said. “We’ll make sure the schools are safe and well-maintained for the kids, and from there it’s just a wide variety of things.”
Christine Ina Casillas can be reached at 949-0555, ext. 607 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.