School Board not saying 'no' yet

Soda Creek Elementary School bond issue could come in November

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The possibility still is alive that the Steamboat Springs School District will ask voters this fall for money to fund construction of a new elementary school.

Although Steamboat Springs School Board President Tom Miller-Freutel and Superintend--ent Donna Howell have said getting a bond issue on the ballot in November is "unlikely," the School Board heard a presentation Monday night about the subject.

Daniel O'Connell and Rudolph Andras, banking officials with RBC Capital Markets, spoke to board members about the financial feasibility, process and timeline involved in asking voters for a multi-million-dollar tax increase. RBC managed last year's successful bond issue to expand Bud Werner Memorial Library in Steamboat and has worked with school districts across the state -- including Steamboat -- on bond issues in the past.

"Having them at the meeting (Monday night) does not mean that we've made a decision to move forward in November," Howell said. "The reason we had them there was the possibility -- but I don't know if it's a realistic possibility."

Howell said the School Board should make a decision by the end of June about Soda Creek Elementary School, a 50-year-old facility with layout, design and ventilation problems.

Howell and district facilities director Rick Denney hosted a round of public forums last month to hear community input about five options for the school: Construct a new school on the current 4.5-acre Soda Creek site for $18.2 million; extensively renovate the school for $12 million; build a new school on a 9.2-acre site near Whistler Road and Meadow Lane in southeast Steamboat for $16.9 million; build a school on a 35-acre site in west Steamboat for an undetermined cost; or do minimal renovations to the current school.

The next public forum is May 11.

Construction of a new school is likely and would require asking voters to approve a lengthy bond issue -- of at least 20 years -- for funding.

Howell said Tuesday that the school district also may ask voters for a mill-levy override to provide additional funding for teacher salaries and cost-of-living increases.

Mill levy overrides, or property tax increases, came up Monday night.

Andras and O'Connell said that mill levy overrides and bond issues have a greater chance of voter approval when they are packaged together, on one ballot, rather than in different years.

"Last year, we were 3-for-3 on combos," O'Connell said.

O'Connell told the School Board on Monday that under the state's School Finance Act, the Steamboat Springs School District has taxing authority to ask voters for a mill levy override that would provide about $1 million in revenues annually.

"That could be part of the big picture," Howell said.

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