Tax hike needed to park buses
The school district is running out of of room for its buses, officials say.
About 14 school buses fit in the county’s existing parking space in Eagle, but the school district needs to make room for about a dozen more, said Karen Strakbein, financial director for the Eagle County School District.
That’s why the district is asking voters to approve a tax increase this November.
“We’ve been farming out those other buses, or else they’ve been in bus loops throughout the school year,” Strakbein said. “There’s not enough room to expand because there’s absolutely no land space by the administrative building. We’re looking at relocating the transportation center.”
The school district has two bus lots: one by Battle Mountain High School and one next the administrative offices in Eagle.
A few bus drivers, she said, have kept the buses on their farms or ranches because there was no more room to store them at the lot in Eagle, she said. Travelers can see some of the buses housed at a ranch near Dotsero.
“For several years, we’ve outgrown our space,” Strakbein said. “There’s no more farming out at various households throughout the valley.”
The crowded storage area in Eagle was built in the early 1970s, said John Brendza, superintendent of the Eagle County School District.
“We really haven’t kept up with the needs of the people,” Brendza said earlier this summer. “We need to build a more up-to-date and spacious transportation center and work on more space for buses.”
The tax increase isn’t just for a new transportation center. If approved, funds will also go toward technology upgrades and small maintenance problems the school district couldn’t fix because of low funds, such as painting and replacing lockers in schools.
“There’s a lot of structural things that come up that need a lot of attention,” Brendza said earlier this summer. “It becomes a real challenge to stay on top of it and keep the buildings in good shape for the future.”
The tax increase is expected to replace an old debt and will sunset after two years.
“There will be no change to what people are paying now,” Brendza said. “The (tax increase) is an effort put in place to expedite projects that would take us some time to complete.”
The moderate increase on property taxes would “sunset” after that, Brendza said.
“We have a debt problem that’s maturing,” Strakbein said. “It’s like paying off a house.”
The new tax would amount to $159.59 for every $100,000 in a home’s value – actually a reduction from a previous bond issue that amounted to $201.13 per every $100,000 of a home’s value.
Colorado law allows for a tax-increase ballot question as provided by the Underwood Amendment, said Pam Holmes Boyd, spokeswoman for the school district. Such a tax question , she said, allows for collection of up to 10 mills – a mill is one-tenth of 1 cent – for three years and mandates the levy sunsets at the conclusion of the three years.
Christine Ina Casillas can be reached at 949-0555, ext. 607 or at email@example.com.