South Routt schools seek funds for boilers

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Referendums 3A and 3B

ballot language

Referendum 3A:

Shall South Routt School District No. RE-3 taxes be increased up to $360,000 annually for the purposes of, among other things,

• Maintaining current education programs,

• Addressing educational and extracurricular programs eliminated or reduced due to budget cuts,

• Attracting and retaining qualified teachers, and providing additional staff for essential education programs,

• Maintaining low class sizes,

• Implementing a bus/vehicle replacement program as determined by the board of education, and

• Meeting rising fuel, insurance and operational expenses,

by an additional property tax to be levied at a rate sufficient to produce the amount specified above, which taxes shall be deposited into the general fund of the district, shall be in addition to the property taxes that otherwise would be levied for the general fund and shall constitute a voter-approved revenue change?

Referendum 3B:

Shall South Routt School District No. RE-3 debt be increased $1,570,000, with a repayment cost of up to $2,595,000, and shall district taxes be increased by up to $525,000 annually for the purpose of

• Providing required matching funds for an approximately $1,547,040 Colorado Department of Education capital construction grant for boiler replacement and relocation, and related repairs and improvements,

And, to the extent funds are available after providing for the above purpose, to repair and improve school facilities, by the issuance and payment of general obligation bonds, which bonds shall bear interest at a maximum net effective interest rate not to exceed 5.75% and mature, be subject to redemption, with or without premium, and be issued, dated and sold at such time or times, at such prices (at, above or below par) and in such manner and containing such terms, not inconsistent herewith, as the board of education may determine; shall ad valorem property taxes be levied in any year, without limitation as to rate and in an amount sufficient to pay the principal of, premium, if any, and interest on such bonds and to fund any reserves for the payment thereof; and shall any earnings from the investment of the proceeds of such taxes and bonds (regardless of amount) constitute a voter-approved revenue change?

— The South Routt School District is asking voters to approve two ballot questions Nov. 6 - one to fund a new heating system, and the other to provide additional money for the general fund.

Superintendent Kelly Reed said the first ballot initiative will help the district replace the dirty, crumbling, coal-fired boilers that heat Soroco High School and Soroco Middle School.

"(The boilers) were installed in 1970, and at that point they were already 20-year-old architecture," Reed said. "So they are about a 50-year-old design, with 40-year usage."

In July, the district received a $1.57 million Capital Construction Grant from the Colorado Department of Education to help replace the boilers at the high school, middle school and South Routt Elementary School in Yampa. The grant is contingent upon the district raising an additional $1.57 million in matching funds. The bond issue posed to voters would provide that money.

"Our first thought was that we'd replace the existing coal boilers with new, state-of-the-art coal boilers," Reed said. "The more we looked into it, everything pointed toward ground-source (heating)."

Below the frost line, the ground maintains a constant temperature of about 55 degrees throughout the year. Ground-source heat pumps are used in conjunction with closed-loop systems in which liquid coolant is pumped through underground pipes. The higher temperature is then absorbed by the liquid within the pipes, after which the liquid is pumped to the surface to a heat pump.

"You supplement this 55 degrees with a propane heater," Reed said. "Then in the summer you have 55-degree cool air coming in."

He said the benefits of ground-source heating are threefold: It's a clean energy source, the cost of maintaining a ground-source system is cheaper and less time consuming than a coal-fired system, and the technology has the potential to heat the schools for the next 40 years with minimal upkeep.

The Hayden School District agreed in July to a 15-year lease-purchase agreement to replace its boilers. Reed said the same model can't work in South Routt because of the higher costs of the project.

Reed stressed that replacing the boiler system is the most pressing concern in the district.

"Case being, had our boiler been inoperable in January as it was in May, it would have forced us to shut down the school until it could be repaired," he said. "In essence, what we are looking at is that we have a very old system that we cannot rely upon. We have been patching it for years and it is time to replace it. We are hoping it will hold together for another year."

If approved by voters, Reed said work would begin in the spring and be finished before the 2008-09 school year.

The district also is asking South Routt voters to approve a mill levy override of three mills - a property tax increase above what state regulations allow - to generate an additional $360,000 a year.

Reed noted that the net mill increase would be one mill - or a tax of $1 per every $1,000 of the first 8 percent of a property's assessed value - if voters also approve the bond purchase to replace the boilers. The average market value of a South Routt property is $236,000, which equates to an increase of $18.80 a year.

This loss of 42 students equates to about $344,400 of lost revenue that would have come from the department of education.

Reed said the decline in revenue led to the gradual dismissal of six teachers, five paraprofessionals, and the reduction in the number of extracurricular activities.

Medical expenses also have increased as much as 18 percent a year, and fuel costs have nearly doubled.

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