Steamboat school ballot issues are without citizens committee to promote them | SteamboatToday.com

Steamboat school ballot issues are without citizens committee to promote them

STEAMBOAT SPRINGS — With 43 days remaining before the Nov. 7 general election, the Steamboat Springs School District has not been able to identify a citizens group willing to advocate passage of its twin ballot questions.

Instead, Superintendent Brad Meeks and Finance Director Mark Rydberg are planning to meet with community groups outside working hours to explain the need for an eight-figure bond issue and a new mill levy to tackle three capital projects the school board has identified as being most urgent.

"If I get asked to present or answer questions, I'll try to take that opportunity to do that," Meeks said. If it overlaps the school day, I'll take vacation to make sure there's no conflict," with Colorado election law, which prohibits school districts from expending any district funds, or the time of employees, to advocate for a ballot question.

The school board is asking voters to approve a $12.9 million bond issue to address capital projects and to extend an ongoing mill levy, which is estimated to raise $1 million in its first year for future capital needs. 

The bond issue is proposed to tackle the following capital project:

• Replacing the roofs on five district buildings

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• Overhauling the heating, ventilation and air-conditioning system at Steamboat Springs Middle School.

• Repairs at Gardner Field athletic complex, where the out-dated aluminum bleachers are deemed unsafe, the surface of the running track is peeling off and the all-weather turf has lost its bounce and is overdue for replacement.

If funded, those projects would add an estimated additional $3.25 per month, or $39 a year, per $500,000 of assessed residential property. The tax increase per $500,000 of commercial property would cost an estimated additional $36 a month, or $434 a year.

If residents of the school district were assuming that members of the Community Committee for Education, or CC4E, which spent over a year making 24 presentations to community groups in an effort to listen and arrive at recommendations on how best to tackle the school district's long-term building needs.

"We were very happy to learn the board is moving forward on a bond, and we supported that," at a meeting this month, CC4E member Robin Schepper said Monday. "We always supported the idea of capital renewal and Gardner Field."

CC4E strongly favored going to the voters this fall with a much larger project that would have asked voters to approve a $31 million bond issue. That recommendation would have included building an addition at Steamboat Springs High School and a new gym at Strawberry Park Elementary over and above the projects being proposed in this fall’s bond issue.

"We're really looking forward to phase two, and we think we can come up with some pathways that are very feasible, and to working with new committees, the district and school board. We'll pull together, and see what's do-able," Schepper said.

Until recently, Meeks was hoping another group of individuals would step in to advocate for the ballot questions authorized by the board. Now, he's resigned to taking on the public outreach himself.

Asked if there was still time for someone to step up and advocate for the ballot question, Meeks replied in the affirmative.

"If somebody wanted to do that, the best point of contact would be to reach out to the Colorado Secretary of State's (election division) to leave the district out of that," he said.

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

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