Downvalley school district eyes massive, $84 million overhaul plan

Scott Condon

The downvalley school district is inching ahead with plans to pop a question to voters in November asking for a $84 million property tax increase.

Roaring Fork School District officials and consultants made the rounds in Glenwood Springs, Carbondale and Basalt on different nights this week pitching a plan to use the entire $84 million to build new schools and facilities or improve existing ones.

In a sparsely attended meeting Thursday night in Basalt, resident Beth Wille, who said she supports the proposal, told district officials that voters will concentrate on three basic issues: “What am I going to get? How much will it cost me? When will it be done?”

The school district has been working on the facilities improvement plan since January 2003, so officials came prepared with answers to the questions.

In Basalt, approval of the bond issue would create a massively renovated and enlarged elementary school, an addition of five classrooms at the high school and a modest addition at the middle school.

The plan calls for the demolition of the Upper Elementary School and partial demolition of the Lower Elementary School. That school is currently divided into three buildings, which creates circulation and efficiency headaches.

The proposal would renovate the remainder of the Lower Elementary School and add 37,000 square feet to the buildings, creating a total of 75,000 square feet.

The optimum capacity of the school would rise from 505 to 542 students. The cost of the work at the elementary school campus would be $7.6 million, as estimated in 2003.

The middle school would gain 4,600 square feet of space at a cost of $2.8 million.

About five classrooms and other space totaling 12,500 square feet would be added to the high school at an estimated cost of $3.2 million

The plans envisions a total of $13.68 million in improvements to the Basalt schools.

Carbondale schools would receive a $25.6 million overhaul. The highlight would be a new high school for $16 million.

Glenwood Springs, which has the most student in the district, would benefit from $42.2 million in improvements. The biggest project would be a $30 million expansion of the high school campus along with an expansion and renovation of the school building.

All the work would be completed within a five-year span.

Rudy Andras, an economist working as a consultant for the school district, said approval of the bond issuance would result in $180 more in property taxes in 2005 for the owner of a house valued at $400,000. The total property tax dedicated to the school district for a house of that value would increase from $1,075 to $1,255.

Although the school district board of education hasn’t voted to place the question on the ballot yet, Superintendent Fred Wall indicated it is almost certain.

Voters are also likely to be asked to approve a “mill levy override,” which would allow the schools to keep revenues generated by growth and higher assessed value of property within the district. That wouldn’t require a tax hike. Revenues generated from that source would go to school operations.

More information about the school facilities plan can be found at the school district’s Web site:

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