Support strong, so far, for proposed school tax hikes on November ballot
EAGLE — If voters were to decide the fate of two proposed school district tax increases today, 65 percent of voters would approve them.
Public Opinion Strategies presented its survey results to the Eagle County Board of Education on Wednesday, indicating that — at least for now — a majority of probable voters support property tax increases for both potential ballot questions, which would provide the following:
An additional $8 million annually for operating expenses such as salaries.
Up to $140 million for renovating and expanding existing buildings.
Approving both measures would cost taxpayers $39.60 per year for every $100,000 of their home’s assessed value.
Since last November’s board election, board members have made it no secret that they will ask voters for more money. The board has until the end of August to decide whether it will make those requests, and for how much.
Support waxes, wanes
Historically, support will usually drop between the time a survey is taken and election day, said Lori Weigel, of Public Opinion Strategies.
“If ballot question polls less than 50 percent, only 10 percent pass”, Weigel said. “I’m not in the business of prediction, but I’d say the mill levy is in pretty good shape. The bond is where some tweaking needs to take place, especially in the ballot language.”
Weigel said it helps that 67 percent of those polled say the school district is headed in the right direction, and 63 percent say they’re confident in the way the district is handling tax money.
In addition, 64 percent said keeping good teachers is a convincing reason to vote for the ballot measures.
Support is higher among women and also in the eastern end of the valley, the survey said. That was a disconnect for some board members, since the lion’s share of the proposed $140 million in bond money would be spent in Eagle and Gypsum.
Kevin Kottenstette represents Gypsum on the school board. He said he’s a bit flummoxed at the relatively weak support in that part of the valley.
“We are going to benefit so much,” he said.
Security measures were important to those polled, especially in the wake of terrorist attacks like Sunday’s in Orlando that killed or injured 103 people, Weigel said.
In most places, temporary buildings and classrooms are not a compelling reason for support. Of those surveyed in Eagle County, 43 percent responded that way.
Normally, presidential election years tend to see voters more amenable to tax packages, although there’s nothing normal about this year, Weigel said.
It has been 10 years since the school district last received a funding increase. Since then, the district has 1,400 more students, pushing total enrollment near 7,000. In fact, during Wednesday’s meeting, the board voted to buy more desks.
“We have more students than desks,” Katie Cocciarella, board president, said.
On one hand, the school district is dealing with around $12 million in deferred maintenance, while on the other, it’s facing capacity problems that will be exacerbated by Eagle County’s growing population, says the school district’s facilities master plan.
Eagle County’s population could grow another 41,000 by 2040, much of that in the western end of the Eagle River Valley, according to data compiled by the school district.
To accommodate all those new students, the elementary and middle schools in Eagle, and Eagle Valley High School would need to be expanded. Eagle Valley elementary and middle schools could stand to be replaced, said the committees that created the school district’s facilities plan.
The east end, from Edwards east, is projected for flat to declining student population between now and 2023, the data projected.
Staff Writer Randy Wyrick can be reached at 970-748-2935 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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