Bond campaign for $94M will be Aspen School District’s third in 15 years |

Bond campaign for $94M will be Aspen School District’s third in 15 years

The Aspen School District.
Aspen Times file photo

Leaders at the Aspen School District are banking on a $94 million bond proposal that will focus on building new teacher housing and making other capital improvements.

It will be the third bond question brought to school district voters in 15 years. Voters passed a $33 million bond proposal for facility upgrades in November 2005, and another $12 million bond question in 2008 created to address staff housing needs.

This November’s question — unanimously adopted by the school board’s five members at a special meeting last week — asks voters to approve more than $94 million with a maximum repayment of $161.9 million. The district is bringing the question ahead of 2021’s scheduled retirement of the current bonds.

As well, voters in the Aspen and Snowmass Village municipalities will be asked to extend their respective sales and property taxes supporting the district.

Voters living with the school district can expect to see campaign literature in their mailboxes leading up to the election.

“Election Day is just not on Election Day,” consultant Paul Hanley told the board on Friday. “Election Day starts on Oct. 14 when the ballots are sent out. Between Oct. 14 and Election Day, every day is Election Day.”

Calling it the campaign a “45-day foot race” to mid-October when ballots go out, board member Dwayne Romero said the work now “transitions into a citizen-led campaign” to push the passage of the questions.

Results of a survey mailed to households in August showed “a limited awareness of the funding proposal being considered, with 32% of respondents having read, seen or heard a lot or some about the District’s bond proposal,” according to a summary of the survey presented to the school board. “This is important because the survey indicates that support for the proposal increases with awareness.”

The district received a 6.5% response rate with the surveys — seeing a return of 437 of the 6,720 questionnaires sent to households with at least one registered voter.

Sixty-nine percent of the respondents said they have children in the school district, and another 63% said they would “definitely” or “probably” vote in favor of the bond question. Another 76% of the respondents living in Aspen said they would support reauthorizing the sales tax, and 66% said they were behind the Snowmass property tax renewal.

The district has 50 housing units for its employees, and teacher pay continues to be a concern. However, bonds cannot support an increase in compensation, but they can be used to build housing. The 2005 bond question for teacher housing has not panned out, the district conceded in its August mail-out.

“The District works hard to proactively maintain its school buildings and other facilities,” said an ASD-produced “Just the Facts” brochure that accompanied a survey. “However, there are capital investments that were not addressed by the 2005 voter-approved bond measure that now need to be addressed.”

The Nov. 3 ballot question, Issue 4A, puts the teachers up near the top, saying bonds would be used for “attracting and retaining quality teachers and staff by acquiring and constructing affordable housing; replacing outdated plumbing, HVAC systems and roofing to extend the useful life of existing facilities; addressing health, safety and security upgrades districtwide; updating instructional technology; improving classrooms, science labs, libraries and performing arts spaces; creating flexible and adaptive learning environments, including outdoor learning spaces; constructing a new preschool and mixed-use facility; and addressing energy efficiency upgrades districtwide.”

The proposed improvements are part of the district’s facilities master plan it embarked on in 2019.

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