Aspen School District mulls November bond question
The Aspen School District is entertaining the possibility of asking voters in November to approve a bond proposal that would help fund such capital improvements as upgrading security, relocating the bus barn, building more worker housing and expanding learning, child care, athletic and performing-arts facilities.
The idea, while in its infancy, has been explored in recent Board of Education meetings and was a significant topic of public discussion at the district’s strategic and master facilities plan presentation Jan. 29.
“It’s still really in the general idea stage,” BOE President Susan Marolt said Thursday.
The board and district plan to take a hard look at floating the question to voters this fall, but numerous scenarios could stand in the way, from economic uncertainty to the state of the bond market, Marolt said.
“There could be a very real possibility that it might not be a possibility this fall,” board member Katy Frisch said at Monday’s meeting, noting the volatility of the bond market.
Or, as member Dwayne Romero noted, “It might be the opportune time.”
Ideally the board wants to advance the question to the electorate this year so that its previously vote-approved bonds from 2005 “could just roll into the new bonds that we are looking for,” Marolt said.
The bond amount is another question that will be answered later this year, but Marolt said it would not result in higher tax rates to district residents.
In addition to major upgrades to the campus, Marolt said an analysis is being performed to see “what it will cost to maintain the buildings we have now.”
The board ideally would want to adopt ballot language by late August or early September, according to a presentation interim superintendent Tom Heald made to the BOE at its meeting Monday.
“A couple of the things that need to happen right away is that we’ll want to work with our CFO, Linda (Warhoe), and the (district’s) financial advisory board,” he said.
Also involved in the process has been the Cunningham Group, a national master-planning firm for major projects such as the one ASD might embark on, as well as Aspen architect Gilbert Sanchez.
At the January presentation, Sanchez and architect Kari-elin Mock of the Cunningham Group outlined short-, mid- and long-term capital improvements the district is considering, based on the findings from focus group and BOE discussions last year.
Some of the more pressing needs include relocating the school bus barn, which currently is located off Maroon Creek Road near the entrance to the middle school, and enhancing the libraries at the three school buildings, Mock said.
Expanding the preschool operations also is being considered, as well as making the campus more energy-efficient, having more outdoor educational venues, and “more flexible and adaptive learning spaces,” Mock said.
Housing, ever a concern for area employers, also is a need for the ASD.
The bond could cover all of the needs or a sampling of them, officials said, noting that will depend on the associated costs. Those costs will be estimated by a local general contractor, Cunningham Group and Sanchez, and McKinstry Co., a Seattle-based construction engineering company.
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