Aspen schools to seek bonds
September 4, 2008
ASPEN ” The Aspen School District plans to ask Aspen voters for the three T’s at the polls this November: transportation, technology and teacher housing.
The board of education voted Wednesday to ask voters to allow the district to sell bonds valued at $12 million (and repayable at a cost of up to $21.6 million) for teacher housing. It also voted to request $4.5 million over three years to fund technology and transportation.
If both were to pass, the additional taxes next year on a house valued at $3.3 million ” the mean home price in the district ” would be $196.
The bond issue, as written, does not specify where the housing will be built or purchased. However, board members say they are tentatively looking at spending roughly half the money constructing additional housing at the district’s West Ranch property in Woody Creek. The district already owns approximately 5 acres adjacent to 10 townhomes it built in 2000. Planners recently finished a study examining the feasibility of such a project.
They are still examining options to spend the rest of the money by purchasing or building additional housing elsewhere, board members said.
Lack of teacher housing has been a long-standing issue for the district, and continues to make it difficult to hire and retain qualified staff, Superintendent Diana Sirko said.
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The mill levy override request, which takes advantage of an amendment that recognizes the rapidly rising cost of technology and transportation for Colorado school districts, could allow the district to purchase new buses and teaching equipment. Although the money couldn’t actually be spent on transportation infrastructure, it would be able to fund most operating costs, saving general fund dollars to purchase new buses.
The board will collect the money over three years, but hopes to spread it over roughly five. Board members arrived at the $4.5 million figure after debating whether to pass a $3 million or $6 million bond.
Sirko warned that an election requires a lot of time and energy on behalf of staff and board members, and she worried that a $3 million bond would only last three years, requiring the board to go back to the voters for more money down the road.
“I don’t know how excited we would be to sign up for an election every three years,” she said.
A motion by Fred Peirce and seconded by Charla Belinski to pass the $6 million bond died for lack of further support. Laura Kornasiewicz made a second motion to pass a $4.5 million bond, and it passed with the support of all board members except Ernie Fyrwald.
He estimated commercial taxes would rise by approximately $1.40 per square foot if the mill levy override passes, an amount he felt was too high.
“Those are my constituents,” Fyrwald explained.
All board members voted in support of the housing bond.