Asking voters to approve a mill levy override may be the best way for the South Routt School District to replace its aging coal-fired boilers.
Superintendent Steve Jones made the suggestion during a budget discussion at last week's South Routt School Board meeting. The cash-strapped school district is expecting revenue to remain flat next year, and several high-priority needs could prompt the district to look for additional sources of revenue.
One such source could be a mill levy override, Jones said.
"Our mill levy has gone down three mills in three years," Jones told the board. "I would like the board to consider possibly going for a mill levy override this November."
Increasing the levy by three mill would generate about $225,000 in additional annual revenue for the district, Jones said. The money, coupled with grants, could be used to pay for boiler replacements at both district campuses, as well as cover yearly boiler operation costs, which could increase significantly if the district were to switch to gas boilers.
"We're going to have to do something with these boilers," Jones said. South Routt is thought to be one of the only districts in the state that still uses coal-fired boilers, he said.
Jones told School Board members that even if the district were to go for an override of five mill, South Routt taxpayers still would be paying a lower property tax rate than Hayden and Kremmling residents.
School Board members had little to say about the override.
"I suspect by next month we'll have a ton of questions," board President Hank deGanahl said.
The 400-student district is expected to see its total student enrollment decline again next year, Jones said. A provision in the state's finance formula that dictates funding for public schools allows the district to use a four-year enrollment average for its funded pupil count. Taking advantage of that provision and a state constitutional amendment that mandates annual increases in education spending means the district could see flat funding next year despite the anticipated decrease in students.
Jones said the draft budget he presented to the board includes $500 base salary increases for teachers. The district probably won't have to cut staff if it doesn't replace a retiring teacher, he said. But increasing health insurance costs, a $20,000 water project and the need to replace many district computers, install campus security systems and dedicate money for bus and vehicle replacements will stretch the budget.
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