Schools could close if tax doesn’t pass |

Schools could close if tax doesn’t pass

EAGLE COUNTY, Colorado – Schools here could close if voters don’t approve the property tax increase the school district says it needs.

“We are considering closing schools, but no specific schools have been identified or decisions made,” said Phil Onofrio, chief financial officer for the Eagle County School District. “We don’t want to threaten communities, so we are being vague, and no decisions have been reached.”

The district could save between $250,000 and $600,000 per school depending which schools it would close. Those savings also would depend on whether the school district could find someone else to use the building and pay the utilities.

Or the district could choose to do something else entirely.

“We could decide that is not a good option and make other choices,” Onofrio said.

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If that’s the money the district has, that’s what it should live with, tax-increase opponents say.

“If these elected officials and school bureaucrats cannot bring themselves to get their spending habits under control, if they cannot manage their budgets and learn to live within their means as the rest of us must, then they should all be summarily fired because they work for us and they are inept,” Buddy Shipley said. “There are plenty of good people desperately looking for work right now. Why not fire the current bunch, the whole lot of them, and give some new people an opportunity to do what our current public employees refuse to do?”

Already cutting

The Eagle County School District cut $9 million and 100 jobs in the past two years, stemming from falling tax revenues and the accompanying reductions in state funding. The state’s budget projections could be looking at another $4 million next year.

That will leave the district at 2007 spending levels and will require more cuts, the district says, if voters don’t approve the property tax increase.

The school board is asking Eagle County voters to approve a property tax increase of as much as $6 million a year. The tax would be permanent and is based on an additional $1,000 per student for as many as 6,000 students.

The money would stay with local schools and not be funneled through the state government, the traditional route for most school funding.

Staff Writer Randy Wyrick can be reached at 970-748-2935 or

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