Understanding the ballot: Moffat County School District Bond
In just over three weeks, Moffat County residents will cast their ballots in this fall’s election. Among choices of future city council members and school board members, there is a ballot initiative that will determine the future of infrastructure at Moffat County School District buildings.
Initiative 4A, a school bond that will trigger some matching funds from a state grant, would raise property taxes for those in the county in order to fund capital improvements to each of the district’s buildings.
What are the matching funds?
If passed, the bond will receive some funds from the Building Excellent Schools Today (BEST) grant from the Colorado Department of Education, totaling $6.48 million. If the bond does not pass, MCSD will not receive that money from the state. Since 2008, BEST has awarded approximately $2.5 billion in grants to more than 525 Colorado schools. BEST money comes from funding from The Colorado State Land Board, Colorado Lottery, marijuana excise tax and local matching dollars (in the form of property taxes, in the case of initiative 4A).
The school district also received funds from the federal government in order to cover costs as a result of COVID-19. $1.1 million has been received from the federal government so far with an additional $4 million to come in the next three fiscal years. This money cannot be used toward capital expenses, meaning this money cannot be used to make building improvements. Federal COVID-19 money has to be used for resources like payroll, cleaning and testing supplies, resources for learning loss, social and emotional health and other similar educational needs.
BEST grant money, on the other hand, has to be used for building costs and requires local matching funds to be received by a school district.
Where are the tax dollars going?
According to the school district, a total of $45 million (which includes the $6.48 million in grant money) would go toward building improvements, should the bond measure pass. That money is split throughout the district, though not necessarily equally, since some buildings need more improvements than others.
The $45 million price tag was shaved down from an earlier needs assessment total that equalled around $100 million to now only feature improvements that MCSD has deemed essential. The firm that accessed the potential costs was based in Northwest Colorado and already took into account that many of the projects could not start until 2022 or later, factoring in potential rises in cost due to inflation or other escalations.
Many of these projects include new roofs at certain schools, replacing outdated plumbing at others, updating electrical systems, etc.
District-wide improvements include updating fire and safety systems, replacing exterior doors, new asphalt and concrete, and new interior finishes.
How much money is my child’s school getting? What are they improving there?
This depends on where your child goes to school.
The largest percentage of the bond’s $45 million would go toward Moffat County High School. MCHS will receive a little over $21 million, with most of that money being used for electrical/mechanical improvements and updates to the football stadium in order to bring it up to standards with the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).
Public schools like MCSD are covered under Title II of the ADA which covers “public entities.” Title II outlines that public entities must provide program access in an integrated setting — unless separate programs are necessary to ensure equal benefits or services. Program access under Title II means that school districts are required to operate their programs so that they are usable by individuals with disabilities. This applies to all existing facilities at public entities.
As laid out by the school district, specific projects that are going toward the stadium are verbatim:
- ADA compliant access into the stadium
- ADA compliant bleachers and press box
- Asbestos removal in the press box
- Repairing the walkways around the site which has significant cracking and heaving
- Repair the track, which is close to not meeting the safety standards for track meets
- Repair the field, which has heaved significantly over time and has a significant crown in it.
The next highest amount goes to Sunset Elementary, which will receive $6.28 million. The largest project at Sunset will also be electrical/mechanical improvements, which will take $1.3 million.
The Early Childhood Center would be getting $5.2 million. Of that total, $1.62 million will be used to update or replace safety and security at the ECC, which also houses district offices for administrators. Almost another million will go toward electrical/mechanical improvements.
Sandrock Elementary will receive just over $4 million. Almost 25% of that will go toward electrical/mechanical improvements. Safety and security and ADA improvements will each take over $700,000 of Sandrock’s total, as well.
Craig Middle School is planning to receive $2.49 million for improvements to its building. Most of that — a little over $685,000 — is going toward security and safety. Flooring will take almost $400,000, and electrical/mechanical costs and asphalt are each taking around $300,000.
Ridgeview Elementary will get $2.3 million if 4A is passed. Over $600,000 of that total is set to go toward ADA improvements, followed by $378,000 going to safety and security.
Maybell Elementary — the smallest school in the district — is receiving the least amount. Their biggest project to potentially receive funds from initiative 4A is improvements to electrical/mechanical systems. That will receive around 21% of the school’s $550,000 estimate.
Find exact estimates for each school and each project here: https://drive.google.com/drive/folders/1ZuRcUJxts48KpblXZBFf8qe622BJUxnB.
Doesn’t the school have a reserve?
Yes, but that money is not meant to be spent on this many capital improvements — especially at one time.
The school district starts the year with approximately $7 million in the bank and uses these reserves to fund the operations until property tax revenues arrive. MCSD receives funds from property taxes — which makes up around half of the school district’s revenue — between March and June at the end of the school year.
How much am I going to pay?
That depends on the value of your property.
Right now, the Moffat County School District levies 31.826 mills. If your house is worth $200,000, multiply that by .0715, the residential property assessment rate, which equals 14,300. Then, multiply 14,300 by the mill (which, for now, is 31.826) to get 455,111.8. Divide that by 1,000, and you’ll get $455.11, what someone currently pays to the school in property taxes if they own a house worth $200,000.
Using that same math, under the new mill, which would raise the current level by an estimated 7.4 mills, the owner of a $200,000 actual-value house would pay an additional $105.82 per year, for a total of roughly $560 per year to the school district. That means that a Craig resident owning a $200,000 actual-value home would increase his or her yearly property taxes paid to all taxing entities in which the house is located from $1186 per year to about $1291 annually.
The current bond, which sunsets in 2028, levies 6.207 mills. That means after 2028, the total mills levied by the school district will reduce back to 33.019, just a little higher than it is without the proposed bond.
Commercial property assessment is performed at a much higher rate. Business owners’ property taxes would increase by significantly more.
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