The Boulder Valley school board heard an update Tuesday on ballot language and a detailed project list for a $350 million capital construction bond issue planned for the November election.
The board is set to vote on both at its Aug. 9 meeting.
“These are critical needs,” Superintendent Rob Anderson said.
He previously recommended the $350 million amount based on polling, an assessment of the district’s building critical maintenance needs and recommendations from a 23-member capital improvement committee.
The cost to homeowners for a $350 million property tax increase would be about $118 a year, or $9.83 a month, for a home valued at $600,000.
Projects include a new $27.7 million building for New Vista High School, a new $31.5 million school to relieve overcrowding at Erie’s Meadowlark School and about $36 million to support expanded career and technical education offerings at middle and high schools. For the technical education expansion, the district hasn’t yet determined which programs would be added to which schools.
Along with those three projects, about $123 million is earmarked for addressing pressing building needs, such as replacing roofs and boilers. Another $5 million would go to accessibility playground improvements, while $6.5 million would cover removal of asbestos materials.
“Our buildings continue to age and our major systems continue to reach their end of life,” said Assistant Superintendent of Operations Rob Price.
The bond calculations also include $44.5 million for inflation, $68.5 million for overhead costs and $8.5 million for reserves.
The only priority identified by the district that wasn’t included was modernizing classrooms with furniture and fixtures at a cost of $25.7 million. Leaving out furniture replacement kept the price tag in a range with more support based on polling.
As the district talks about the bond issue ahead of the election, school board President Kathy Gebhardt said, it’s important to address community concerns that include approving a bond issue before the district decides whether to close any of its under enrolled elementary schools.
The district’s new Long Range Advisory Committee is tasked with studying enrollment patterns over the next school year to help the school board grapple with shrinking school enrollment, which is concentrated at the elementary level.
Price said the district will start with projects at middle and high schools if the bond issue is approved, allowing time to make decisions about the elementary schools.
“We won’t make unnecessary investments when the time comes,” he said.
Along with asking voters to approve a bond issue, the ballot measure would change how Boulder Valley’s debt limit is calculated. Now, the district’s debt limit is set at 20% of its assessed property value. The ballot measure changes that to 6% of the actual value.
The change would increase the district’s debt limit from about $1.6 billion to about $4 billion, though district officials noted the district would still be about $500 million below the limit even at the smaller amount when the new bond issue is added to the total.
Chief Financial Officer Bill Sutter said actual values are a more consistent measure because state ballot measures and the Legislature can change how assessed values are calculated. While the change will increase the district’s debt limit, he added, voters would continue to have the final say on whether the district incurs more debt through a bond issue.
“It’s still the Boulder Valley voters’ choice to decide how much debt to incur,” he said.
Boulder Valley’s last capital construction bond issue totaled $576.5 million and was approved by voters in 2014. The final amount grew to $677 million from bond sale premiums, rebates and interest earnings.
Boulder Daily Camera
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