Bond issue not ideal for Steamboat Springs school maintenance? | SteamboatToday.com

Bond issue not ideal for Steamboat Springs school maintenance?

There was support among Steamboat Springs School Board members May 22 for tackling $15 to $18 million in long-deferred maintenance on existing school buildings but not perhaps with the use of long-term indebtedness like a bond issue.

The School Board isn't planning to make definitive decisions about how much money to seek from voters to address Steamboat's cramped and dated schools until June 19. And a major emphasis of Monday's meeting was for board members to pose questions to their consultants from  NV5.

But board member Roger Good gained some traction with his colleagues when he urged they proceed with caution when deciding how to fund deferred maintenance.

The issue? Good said, in his view, it isn't good fiscal policy to use a 20-year bond to fund maintenance projects that may not have a life span that exceeds the term of the debt.

“When you look at the (deferred maintenance), I have significant concerns with funding relatively short-term projects with long-term money."
-- Roger Good, Steamboat Springs School Board member

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"When you look at the (deferred maintenance), I have significant concerns with funding relatively short-term projects with long-term money," Good said. "If we go for a 20-year bond issue, I'd like for the (work) to last more than 20 years. We need to decide which things are going to last longer than the bond. I almost don't care what building they are in."

This week's school board meeting took place two weeks after the citizens' committee known as CC4E recommended  the district pursue voter approval of a $31 million bond issue this fall including $12.7 million in deferred maintenance to the existing schools, another $5.1 million to the administration building on Seventh Street, a $5.7 million addition to Steamboat Springs High School, $3.3 million for a new gym at Strawberry Park Elementary School, and $750,000 for remodeling at the middle school.

The emphasis on deferred maintenance in this week's meeting doesn't imply the board is moving away from new building projects, Good said. Those decisions are probably a month away.

School District Finance Director Mark Rydberg was in sync with Good's concerns about bonding for maintenance, and he offered a possible alternative that he said could help the school district avoid falling behind again on deferred maintenance and slipping back into an $18 million hole.

"I think we could consider a (property tax) mill levy if we only wanted to knockout the deferred maintenance," he said.  "We could have a smaller three-year sunset where we knock out some of the big ticket items, including the high school roof."

Good approved of that strategy and so did Board President Joey Andrew. But Andrew stressed the need for commnication with voters.

"How do you tell voters  there's a high potential we'll be back for $25 million to build an elementary school?" he asked.

School Board members May 22 comments on district building needs:

  • Sam Rush:  “I do not support (the) Whistler (school site) at all. I feel all the growth is going west. Take Whistler Park and swap that out with the city for something else.”
  • Michelle Dover: “In terms of Strawberry Park (elementary school), a new gym seems pretty obvious. It’s just where to put it? I think a fieldhouse is a great idea.”
  • Joey Andrew: “What does a road to Whistler cost? I’d like to know.”