School board puts bond placeholder on November ballot |

School board puts bond placeholder on November ballot

Uncertainty remains whether Moffat County district will pursue bond issue in 2020

Moffat County School District board members renew their oath of office as read by Elise Sullivan during the board's November meeting. Cindy Looper, Chris Thome, Jobeth Tupa, Jo Ann Baxter and JNL Linsacum will all remain on the board for another term.
Andy Bockelman / Craig Press File

There’s a lot going on with the Moffat County School Board currently, and due to the number of issues present, members are questioning if it’s the right time to pursue a school bond on the ballot in November.

Superintendent Scott Pankow said during Thursday’s work session at the administration building that the board will submit the proper paperwork to become a placeholder on the November ballot through the county clerk’s office, but that the paperwork does not mean they will officially pursue a school bond later this year. The board had previously discussed pursuing a 10-year, $40 million bond.

Board of Education President Jo Ann Baxter said the deadline to become a placeholder on the November ballot through the county clerk’s office is today.

Citing the number of issues facing the school district – namely the in-depth reopening plan the district has worked through, as well as a recent workshop regarding the bond issue, Board of Education Vice President JoBeth Tupa said that while the support and understanding is there from the community, there’s just too much going on currently to feel comfortable asking for a bond on the ballot.

“I’m apprehensive myself,” Tupa said. “We have a lot of going on at this moment. While our capital needs for the district great, so is our need to take manage and take care of our reopening plan.”

Previously, MCSD was hoping to receive roughly $25 million in Building Excellent Schools Today (BEST) grants from the state. However, in early June the district announced it had not received a single BEST grant out of the three it applied for, leaving the district no real choice other than to pursue a bond.

COVID-19 and the economic downturn across the state has thrown a huge wrench into those plans, leaving the board debating what it should do next.

If it pursues a bond in November, board member Chris Thome said that the board must do a better job showing staff members and the community exactly what the money from the bond will go towards in each building. The school district previously had TreanorHL come in put together a facilities assessment in 2019. Following the completion of its 11-month facilities assessment, which showed more than $99.6 million in capital improvement needs, the school district narrowed the capital needs down to a handful at various properties, submitting BEST grants for:

­ — $12.2 million for safety and security;
— $11.2 million for moisture mitigation;
— and $1.881 million for asbestos abatement.

“There’s just not a clear list of what’s being done in each building,” Thome said. “The snapshot that we released had people wondering if this is it, so we need to have a clear picture of what we’re doing at each school if we’re going to ask for this bond. We haven’t done a good enough job of doing that as a board.

“If we can show what’s happening at each school and show just what the financial impact will be for homeowners, I think it will make things that much clearer to the community.”

While it’s unclear at this time which direction the board will go in terms of proceeding with the bond issue or dropping it for 2020, Superintendent Pankow was quick to point out that the capital needs won’t go away if the district is committed to getting another generation out of each building.

“…I don’t think it’s a bad thing if we just tell the clerk to give us a placeholder and then see where we’re at after the reopening plan is done to honor the work this board has done,” Pankow said. “If we don’t go for it this year, obviously there’s a lot of fixes that we have to do; those fixes don’t go away, they will still need to be addressed.”

“I liken it to putting band-aids on rather than getting stitches,” board member Cindy Looper said. “You’re just going to keep putting band-aids on until you can get to point of getting stitches.”

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