Vail Daily letter: School finances in focus
As members of the Eagle County Schools Finance Committee, we thought it important to provide insight into our involvement regarding the upcoming ballot questions 3A and 3B facing voters in November. The Finance Committee was formed in October of 2012 with the purpose of serving as an external monitoring committee which helps ensure the district functions in a fiscally prudent manner, with a high level of financial stewardship.
Over the past four years, we have reviewed the financial information of the district, made recommendations to ensure the annual budget aligns with the district’s Strategic Plan and considered long-range capital improvement programs and related financing needs of the district. During this time, we have had the opportunity to learn the intricacies of school district finance and have witnessed first-hand the challenges faced by our local school board as well as school district officials concerning reduced state and local revenue sources.
The school board in conjunction with school district staff and bond counsel have spent a significant amount of time determining what improvements are immediately necessary to continue to offer a high level of education to our students. This analysis indicated that there is $200 million of total capital improvements that need to be made. These improvements have been prioritized into tiers that have resulted in the current bond proposal of $144 million. While the proposed bonds will provide significant funds towards meeting the district’s needs in terms of the following, they do not provide enough funding to complete all of the improvements that have been identified.
• Renovating and/or reconstructing school buildings at Eagle Valley Middle School, Eagle Valley Elementary and Red Sandstone Elementary to accommodate student population growth and provide comparable learning environments to that of other district schools.
• Adding classrooms and other learning spaces to Eagle Valley High School to increase instructional opportunities in science, technology, engineering, math and other career skills.
• Acquiring, constructing and improving classroom space and improving building quality in other district schools and providing access in and to district facilities.
• Improving school safety and security, including secure entrances and safety equipment.
• Providing students with modern technology to gain the skills needed for tomorrow’s jobs and careers.
• Addressing the major repair backlog to upgrade and renovate classrooms and buildings.
Another $8 million through a mill levy will support:
• Recruiting and retaining quality teachers and staff.
• Reducing class size.
• Restoring programs like art, music, technology, counseling and physical education.
• Replacing outdated textbooks and classroom learning materials.
• Expanding hours and services in the district’s preschool programs.
• Funding ongoing necessary maintenance of school facilities and funding transportation.
As members of the Finance Committee, we can assure the public that significant time and resources were utilized to determine what would provide the most benefit to students, local families and our overall economy. Additionally, we have witnessed first-hand that the staff and board have been very conscientious and have applied appropriate diligence into the project. We would strongly encourage everyone to become more educated on these initiatives by visiting http://www.eagleschools.net/district-info/2016electioninitiatives.
Nick Brinkman, Leslie Monroe, Mike Trueblood and Anne Clark
Eagle County School District Finance Committee