Moffat County School District Board of Education weighing potential bond packages for the fall
With much of Moffat County – and the country in general – staring down a potential recession due to the novel coronavirus’s impacts on the economy, Moffat County School District Board of Education members are weighing potential bond packages to propose to voters on November’s ballot.
Meeting virtually as a board Friday, April 17, along with TreanorHL – the company which recently completed its 11-month master plan for the school district, Board of Education members walked through potential bond packages while weighing the economic uncertainty its voter base is facing in the upcoming months.
The Board of Education had previously made it known they’re prioritizing three projects through a potential bond and BEST grants following TreanorHL’s recommendations in hopes of getting at least another 25-30 years out of the current buildings in the district.
The safety and security project is the largest BEST grant application for MCSD at $12.2 million, focusing on the following efforts:
• Secure entry vestibule for Sandrock Elementary School
• Exterior door security upgrades for all schools in the district aside from CMS
• Card access security for all schools
• Fire alarm system updates in all schools
• Updates to building communication systems, such as the PA, intercom, telephones and clocks
• Improvements to student drop-off areas at Sandrock and Ridgeview Elementary
• Pedestrian safety, adding snow melt systems at Sunset Elementary and the district administration building, formerly East Elementary School
With moisture mitigation, MCSD submitted an $11.2 million grant, which would help fund the following projects:
• Roof replacement for Moffat County High School and the district administration building
• Wall repair and protection for Maybell Elementary, Sunset and MCHS
• Window repair and replacement for MCHS, Ridgeview, Sunset, and the administration building
• Drainage improvements to move water away from the building and the foundation at MCHS, Sandrock, Sunset, Ridgeview, and the administration building
• Fix the condensate drainage in Ridgeview
MCSD’s asbestos abatement project is the lowest BEST grant application at $1.881 million, but it may just be the most important one for the district.
The asbestos abatement project would address the following within the district:
• Replacement of the wood flooring inside CMS’s gymnasium, which is the original flooring from 1948
• Removal of asbestos from the press box at MCHS’s football field
• Flooring finishes throughout Sandrock and Sunset
• Carpeting in classrooms, hallways, and the gymnasium of the administration building, which is all original material from the opening of the building
In total, the projects would cost $25,280,396 and BEST grants, if awarded, could total $8.4-$12.5 million. According to Ulrich, the BEST grants could award one or two to MCSD, but there’s no guarantee the district would get all three applications approved.
The projects the district is looking to pursue total well below the $99.6 million TreanorHL reported to the school board during its initial reveal of the master plan.
While MCSD awaits the presentation process for the BEST grants in early May, the school board is weighing a handful of different bond options, ranging from $12m in taxpayer funds — which would be a 50 percent tax match with BEST grants — to $40m.
Currently, residential taxpayers are responsible for roughly $224.89 a year on a previous bond and mill levy with Moffat County School District, while commercial tax payers are responsible for $910.80 a year, per $100,000.
The previous bond taxpayers are responsible for comes off the books in 2028.
In an effort to help fund facility upgrades, Moffat County School District is considering asking taxpayers for a bond request on the 2020 ballot later this year. The last time MCSD asked voters for a bond was 2007, according to previous Craig Press reporting.
The Board of Education is currently looking at a 10-year term for a new bond proposal, as well as a 25-year term. The 25-year team would cause taxpayers to pay less per year, but drags out the life of the bond. That potential 25-year term caused some pause with some Board of Education members.
“I think when we look at a 25-year bond, we have to think about the impact on our commercial businesses,” Dr. Elise Sullivan said. “I think as we think about small businesses and large businesses in Moffat County, I have two questions moving forward: how do we decide between the bare essentials such as a new roof, boilers, and paint; or I think this pandemic is showing us the highlights that we’re missing sports, so how much do we provide for sports facilities?
“Would be able to do more with a 25-year term? I haven’t made a personal decision, I’m just thinking about the biggest things that I see as to how it affects the commercial tax base, and how much we’re able to accomplish in a 10-year or a 25-year term.”
Jobeth Tupa raised concerns about dragging out the life of the bond due to projected decline in assessed value long-term locally.
“I feel like these numbers are scary, but dragging this out isn’t the most ideal thing..,” Tupa said.
Trying to weigh the balance between residential and commercial tax payer contributions caused board member Cindy Looper to voice some concerns, considering the impending economic changes not only brought on by COVID-19, but the impending closure of the power plant by 2030.
“As a commercial business owner, my concern is the balance of residential versus commercial that the taxes are,” Looper said. “As the commercial valuation goes down, those commercial businesses that are left will end up paying a higher and higher tax rate just in general. So by taking it out 25 years, are you actually making it harder on the commercial owners?”
Chris Thome, a Board of Education member and a local business owner in his own right, took a different stance Friday, stating that he believes the 10-year bond is the way to go, recession or no recession, considering the board had talked all along about taking advantage of the tax payer base currently in place locally.
“I know that’s what recently happened with the pending economic recession we’re looking at, I don’t like looking at the bond issue from a 25-year perspective,” Thome said. “I may have a different frame of mind than different business owners, but I’d rather have this done and taken care of while we have the current tax base in place, recession or no recession. I think the discussion we’ve had all along has been utilize the tax base we have now and have them pay for it now.
“Fifteen years of Tri-State, Trapper and Colowyo not part of the picture…I don’t want to have a note associated to this without them here for 15 years. We were always shooting for a 10-year bond to have this locked up and done…I’m not sure trying to do more and stretch it out over 25 years is not the right message to put out to the community,” Thome added.
The Board of Education did not make a decision Friday, in terms of the length of the bond, the amount they’d ask for from the taxpayer base, or even if they would proceed with a bond this November. For now, the board awaits results from a staff survey, as well as the awarding of funds from BEST grants.
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Moffat County School District’s COVID-19 dashboard indicates that positivity rates have remained low for the second week in a row.