Fate of school bond for Hayden schools, west of Steamboat Springs, hinges on 11 ballots | SteamboatToday.com

Fate of school bond for Hayden schools, west of Steamboat Springs, hinges on 11 ballots

HAYDEN — Hayden School Superintendent Christy Sinner confirmed Nov. 9 that the school district has obtained the list of 11 voters who could make a difference in the outcome of Hayden's deadlocked school bond election.

However, it isn't district officials, but instead, community members, who are contacting those voters to encourage them to make the 46-mile roundtrip to the Routt County Courthouse to clear-up discrepancies with the signatures on their ballots, allowing their votes to count.

"We are optimistic that (the outcome) will be in the positive," Sinner wrote in an email.

Steamboat Today reported election night, Nov. 7, that the vote on Hayden's $22.9 million bond issue and corresponding mill levy, ended in a tie, with 427 "yes" votes to "427 "no" votes.

And there remains a chance that the tie will be broken either way, potentially avoiding the need for a recount. Ballot signatures written by the 11 voters were deemed, by two election judges, one from each major political party, to be inconsistent with their signatures from previous election years.

Their ballots will be counted if they visit the Routt County Clerk's office by Nov. 15, with valid identification, and successfully clear up the discrepancy, allowing their votes to count.

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In the meantime, Sinner said, the school board already has a regularly scheduled meeting Nov. 15, which happens to be the deadline for ballot signature verification.

"The board members are aware of the options and have a couple of scenarios in their minds, depending on the outcome," she said.

But the school district's situation is more complicated than that. The proceeds from the bond issue are counted on to leverage a $41 million BEST, or Building Excellent Schools Today, grant from the Colorado Department of Education. The funds would be used to build new middle and high schools and refurbish its elementary school at an estimated cost of $63 million on land the district already owns.

Hayden was not awarded its BEST grant for 2017-18, but was ranked the highest among five schools that were identified as backup projects. For Hayden to pick up a grant this year, the funding ballot questions of at least two other school districts already awarded their grants, had to fail. And that did not happen on election night.

But Hayden could have second and third opportunities.

Sinner confirmed that the ballot language attached to Hayden's bond issue provided that, should it pass, it would continue to be valid, without going back to the voters through 2019.

If the tie vote in the Nov. 7 election is broken in favor of the "yes" votes, Hayden would be prepared to move forward next year or the year after if it is awarded a grant.

"It would be a positive step to already have the bond in place when we apply for the BEST grant," Sinner said. “The bond (would) stand as ‘ready’ status or on hold until the BEST grant is obtained."

Examples of other small school districts counting on bond issues to secure their BEST grants in 2017 include the Mancos School District in Montezuma County, which passed a $19.77 million bond to perform major renovations on its K-12 campus. Del Norte School District in Rio Grande County landed a $27 million BEST grant, which it will match with $17.9 million of funds of its own to build a new PK-12 school campus, after a successful bond issue election this week.

To reach Tom Ross, call 970-871-4205, email tross@SteamboatToday.com or follow him on Twitter @ThomasSRoss1.

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