May 4, 2018
Dear Friends, Colleagues, and Community Members:
Archuleta School District 50 JT seeks your thoughts and recommendations on two funding proposals that may appear on the November 6, 2018 ballot to address our highest priority capital facility and operating needs.
After nine years of cuts in state funding—totaling more than $11 million—the District simply does not have the funds to address certain high priority capital facility and operating needs.
The District recently applied for three Building Excellent Schools Today (BEST) grants to help fund the replacement of our community’s aging elementary school as well as to address important facility upgrades at the middle school and high school. In May of this year, the District will learn if our grant applications were successful.
If awarded in full, the BEST grant would fund 39% of the proposed facility improvements, or about $15 million of the total cost.
To obtain the required 61% matching funds, the Board of Education is considering placing a bond ballot measure on this fall’s ballot. This is the only realistic option available to the District to raise the required $34.4 million match. The estimated tax impact of the proposed $34.4 million bond measure is $5.59 per month per $100,000 of a home’s actual value, or about $67.09 per year.
The District’s schools face many facility challenges, including critical safety and security issues, ADA accessibility problems, site and structural problems, outdated electrical, plumbing, HVAC and geothermal systems, energy inefficiencies, among other facility needs. Enclosed is a summary of some of the main facility issues at each of our school buildings.
In addition to a bond measure, the District is also considering placing a mill levy override (MLO) measure on this fall’s ballot. Proceeds of the MLO would be used to attract and retain qualified teachers and staff, implement full-day kindergarten and hire school resource officers. All MLO monies would stay local, and none of these funds would go back to Denver.
Our school district continues to struggle when it comes to attracting and retaining qualified teachers. In fact, over the last five years, District 50 JT has lost 51 teachers. Some retired or decided to pursue other careers, while many left for better pay in other school districts. And with the number of college students pursuing a teaching career dramatically dropping, recruiting new teachers is going to become increasingly difficult.
The State of Colorado funds kindergarten at 58% of the total cost, which means that the District must make up the difference for the cost of full-day kindergarten. Some students qualify under grants due to low income or high-risk factors. However, those who do not qualify for the grants must pay tuition. Over the past few years, the District has reduced the cost of tuition in an attempt to make it possible for more students to attend full-day kindergarten. Unfortunately, there are still many students who are unable to participate.
Off-duty officers from Pagosa Springs Police Department and Archuleta County Sherriff currently patrol the District’s schools on a rotating basis. While this is better than no law enforcement presence, the District seeks to improve security by hiring a full-time, highly trained school resource officer for each school.
The estimated tax impact of the proposed $1.7 million MLO measure is $42.98 per year per $100,000 of a home’s actual value. Both in the case of the bond and MLO, seniors who qualify and apply for the Senior Property Tax Exemption would pay a lower tax amount.
District 50 JT’s bond and MLO proposals represent many months of planning, including extensive assistance from numerous community members, business, education and civic leaders, and other stakeholders. We are grateful for the expertise and the time they have allocated to this important planning effort.
Over the coming months, the District will be conducting presentations, gathering public input through a mail survey, and hosting informational meetings. The first three public information meetings are scheduled for the following dates, times and locations:
• Thursday, May 24 – 6:00 pm, Ross Aragon Community Center, South Room
• Saturday, May 26 – 11:00 am, Pagosa Springs Elementary School
• Thursday, June 7 – 6:00 pm, Pagosa Springs Elementary School
A tour of the elementary school will be provided after the May 26 and June 7 informational meetings.
Thank you for taking the time to learn more about District 50 JT’s highest priority needs and proposed solutions, and for participating in our community outreach efforts.
These are your schools. Your input will shape how we move forward.
Linda Reed Superintendent