Aspen School District gets triple win at the polls starting with $94 million bond issue

Susan Marolt, left, and her daughter Lucy Marolt stand near the road in Aspen to campaign for the Aspen School District questions on Election Day, Tuesday, Nov. 3, 2020. Susan is on the school board and Lucy attended school through the Aspen Public School system. "This is just really important for our schools," said Susan Marolt. "We've gotten really good support in the past from our community so we're hoping they'll come through again."
Kelsey Brunner/The Aspen Times

The Aspen School District enjoyed a clean sweep at the polls Tuesday highlighted by the approval of $94.3 million in bonds to pay for new staff housing and upgrades to campus facilities.

The proposed extensions of a property tax in Snowmass Village and a sales tax in Aspen passed by roughly 4-1 margins, with voters in the school district approving Issue 4A, the bond question, by a 3-1 advantage.

“It tells me we’re in a fantastic community that is really focused on the needs of its children,” Superintendent David Baugh said Tuesday of the results.

The big prize in Tuesday’s election results is approval of the bond question. The district plans to add 50 new housing units to its existing inventory of 43 units.

“We’ll work with the team to figure out as soon as we can how we can get this going,” Baugh said. “Clearly that is the priority. Teacher housing is a struggle for the district and it’s with COVID and academics as our biggest challenges.”

District leadership also plans to use the money for capital upgrades to the on-campus Aspen District Theatre, classrooms and security systems, among other improvements, while relocating The Cottage preschool facility to the bus barn location, which in turn would be moved to a place to be named later.

“This is not small change and we want to be good stewards with the taxpayers’ money,” Baugh said. “And if we are, it might mean additional housing units.”

Snowmass voters approved Issue 2A renewing the property tax, which sunsets at the end of 2021, through 2026. The tax is estimated to generate $500,000 annually for the school district. Aspen voters also blessed Issue 2B with the extension of a 0.3% sales tax that makes the district $1.5 million annually.

Cynthia Chase, who with resident John Galambos led the campaign to pass the questions, also is executive director of the Aspen Education Foundation, a fundraising arm for the district.

Chase said in a statement that the nonprofit is “thrilled with the passing of 2A, 2B, and 4A. We are so grateful to our

local community for supporting our public schools. Together, these issues will change the future of our district and make a positive, lasting impact for generations to come.

“There are many funding sources that support and create the experience that families expect from the Aspen School District. 2A and 2B are critical to this funding — and 4A will provide much needed teacher/staff housing and will address critical capital needs.”

The district has said it will issue the new $94 million in bonds without an increase to taxpayers. Maximum repayment of the bonds would be $161.9 million, according to officials.

The school district is in its second week of in-person learning at its elementary, middle and high schools. The elementary school began in-person classes September and is now fully open; the secondary schools held classes remotely for the first quarter before beginning a weekly hybrid in-person model Oct. 27.