by Jack Minor –
Acknowledging there is a trust issue with the Greeley/Evans District 6 school board and the community, the board approved the official language for a November ballot question asking voters for a bond issue that would help the district obtain $29 million to replace John Evans Middle school.
Prior to the board approving the language at a special board meeting on Monday, the group met in a 30 minute work session to discuss the issue.
During the work session, board member Judy Kron expressed concern that the language could be confusing and voters might not understand it. The concern was over the stipulation that collection of the taxes for the bond issue was contingent on the district receiving a $21 million grant from the Colorado Department of Education.
“Frankly, there a lot of people in the district, who just don’t trust us,” Kron said.
She felt that the language was not clear and this could cause people to vote against the measure.
“Quite frankly, if we don’t have them convinced before they get to the ballot, then we’re in trouble,” Kron said. “A lot of people if they don’t understand the ballot question, they vote no. So we have to convince them first.”
According to the language, property taxes are to “be raised without limit regardless of the mill levy rate to generate the amount to pay principal and premium if any.”
If approved, the district would issue $8.2 million in bonds, which will be repaid over 20 years at a cost of $14 million.
Prior to the meeting, the Gazette asked the district if prior to the election, voters would have an opportunity to see a breakdown of how the $30 million will be spent. Doug Lidiak said at this time the district had no plans to do so, noting that when voters approved the last bond issue for Northridge, they did not draw up the plans or solicit bids until after the measure was approved.
At the meeting Lidiak said the board might consider releasing some type of general cost breakdown to reassure voters that the money will be spent wisely.
Another concern was raised by Logan Richardson who questioned what would happen if the initiative was approved, but the district did not get the grant this year, but was awarded it the next year and in the meantime the interest rates on bonds increased beyond the amount allowed to be collected in the proposal.
Wayne Eads, the district’s chief financial officer said the language would not permit them to raise additional funds by increasing property taxes, but that the district could possibly pay the difference out of the general fund.
The Gazette had previously reported that SlaterPaull Architects were issued a $137,000 contract to conduct a facility master plan of all schools in the Greeley/Evans school district. The plan was intended to recommend expenditures for improvements to area schools.
As part of the contract SlaterPaull.would help the district in the preparation of a Building Excellent Schools Today (BEST) grant. The BEST grant is a program that provides partial funding to local communities for school construction and renovation.
At an all-day work session, Adele Wilson, an architect with SlaterPaull reviewed ways the district could chose to upgrade or renovate the schools and how to qualify for the BEST grant.
Questions were raised by the Gazette after it was learned that Wilson is on the board that is in charge of awarding the BEST grant.
At the work session, Eads announced that going forward the district would not be using SlaterPaull’s services as part of the project because of the conflict of interest.
The bulk of the $30 million would come from the state in the form of a Building Excellent Schools Together (BEST) grant. The grant monies are funded by revenues generated through leasing state-owned land and the oil and gas industry.
Roger Fiedler, media spokesman for the district said the issue is a bargain since the bulk of the funds are not paid for by taxpayers.