Oak Creek South Routt residents would pay $96.91 more a year in property taxes on every $100,000 of residential property if voters approve a bond issue in November for an $8.9 million improvement project for all the schools in the district.
The South Routt School District is asking voters to increase the mill levy by 9.95 mills to finance the construction. That equals $96.91 a year for a $100,000 residential property or $8.08 per month.
"That's only a couple of car washes a month," South Routt Schools Superintendent Steve Jones said.
Commercial property taxes, however, would be about three times the residential rate.
Refurbishing and adding onto the schools was one of Jones' goals when he was hired as the superintendent last year.
"I think the projects are important for the economic growth of south Routt," he said.
When families look for a place to move to, a major factor in that decision often is how good the schools are.
"Slow growth in the area is dependent on the educational facilities," Jones said.
South Routt School Board member Bob Logan said he understands that the increase in taxes may concern some residents, but he urged people to research the issue.
"They need to realize that our children's education is the most important thing that south Routt has to offer," he said.
Improving the schools increases the opportunity for children to learn, Logan added.
Jones and the board have acknowledged in numerous meetings that all the buildings have serious needs that should be addressed.
First is the issue of growth. The project would enable the district to handle 30 to 35 percent more growth, which is what is expected to happen in the county in coming decades, Jones said.
That is reflected most in the $1.8 million addition and upgrade to South Routt Elementary School. If the bond is passed, a six-classroom wing would be added. The project also involves moving the library, special education classes and other school programs out of three, 25-year-old double-wide trailers and into the school building.
The issue at the middle school is repairing the 77-year-old building and making it into a modern schoolhouse within the walls of a historic building.
That project, costing $1.8 million, will replace windows, ceilings, walls and bathrooms. It also includes exterior and interior wall repair and electrical and plumbing work.
The district may also receive a grant from the Colorado Historic Society to help with the refurbishing.
Soroco High School's work will be the most expensive, costing $3.5 million. That covers building a new gym that is regulation size. Soroco's current gym is too small, to the point that some school officials have expressed some concerns about safety.
Furthermore, the high school project would includes building new locker rooms, a new agricultural building, a commons area for the students and carpeting the entire school.
"Money permitting, we'd like to do some ventilation work, too," Jones said.
He feels confident that if south Routt residents take the time to understand the need for the work, that people will support the bond.
However, possibly the biggest obstacle for the district is keeping the school bond from competing with a $1.5 million library bond, which will be on the same ballot in November.
Two bond issues, which together would cost about $130 more a year in taxes, may make the school district's plan less attractive to voters.
"I think it will be more difficult, but I don't think it will be impossible," Jones said.
As growth continues to happen in the upper Yampa Valley, as well as in all of Routt County, voters in south Routt will have to make these types of decision more often, he said.
To reach Doug Crowl call 871-4206 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org