School board split on bond issue for November ballot
With the focus currently on the reopening plan for Moffat County School District, the Board of Education is split on pursuing a bond issue in November.
The board previously put a placeholder on the bond issue with the Moffat County Clerk’s Office. That placeholder allowed the BOE to ensure they can still move forward with the bond issue on the November ballot. However, that placeholder doesn’t mean the board will officially pursue a school bond later this year. The board had previously discussed pursuing a 10-year, $40 million bond.
During Thursday’s special meeting to approve the district’s reopening plan for in-person learning, the board spent about 10 minutes discussing the next steps forward regarding the bond issue.
Board members Chris Thome and JNL Linsacum expressed concerns that should the board not move forward with the bond issue on the November ballot that all the hard work the board has done to this point would go to waste.
“I think an election year is a perfect year to go to the voters because of the turnout,” Thome said. “The work that we’ve done, it’s hard to table it. Due to the hiccup we’ve had over the last five months, it’s been hard to present this to the community and gain the momentum needed.
“I still feel that it’s a critical thing, but we’ve lost some momentum due to outside circumstances. I’m frustrated we’ve lost the time, but as a member of this board I’ll feel comfortable moving forward with whatever we decide.”
Linsacum agreed with Thome, but added that as a Board of Education they need to proceed forward with what the community wants, hinting at asking the voters what they would support.
Holding opposing views in regards to pursuing a bond this fall were board members Cindy Looper and JoBeth Tupa.
Looper highlighted the changing world COVID-19 has created as a reason why the board cannot ask the staff to support a bond issue on the November ballot because they already have too much on their plates with the reopening plan.
“We need the support of the staff in order to get a bond issue passed, and they just don’t have time to concentrate on a bond issue right now,” Looper said. “These issues aren’t going away…we just have too much to concentrate on until this covid thing straightens out.”
Tupa followed Looper’s comments, citing the need to ensure the safety and security of students and staff this fall as a reason why the board should not go after a bond issue this fall.
“I agree that we have great capital needs that need addressed, but it would be obtuse of us to ask staff and parents – who can’t even wrap their mind around next school year – to support a bond issue at this time,” Tupa said. “The time between now and election should be spent figuring out how to support our students. It’s disappointing to say that after all the work we’ve done to get where we are with the bond issue, but it’s where we’re at.”
Board President Jo Ann Baxter didn’t force the board to make a decision prior to the approval of the reopening plan. Baxter did hint at another special meeting in the next few weeks to come to a decision as a board.
“I’m conflicted and I have much of the same views as JNL does and Chris does,” Baxter said. “It looks to me like right now, at this point in time, we can either pause and say let’s take a breath, or we can move forward…I know that if we don’t ask voters, we’ll never know.
“If we don’t ask the voters to do this and help us out at this time and take advantage of so much of the work that we’ve already done, and the fact that we’ll lose a year of assessed value for the plant and mines…I don’t have a firm direction.”
The board will need to have a set decision made before the end of August, ensuring the bond issue’s language is on the ballot for November, should the board pursue a bond.
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