De Beque to ask for tax help to save its school district

The De Beque School District in November will ask property owners to pony up to keep its small school district intact.

De Beque School District 49-JT is asking voters in November for a mill-levy override and to pump $485,000 more from property taxes into the district.

The move is intended to fend off the financial woes of shrinking enrollment tied to general economic woes and the contraction of the drilling industry, Superintendent Marty Lucas said.

It could come down to the survival of the district, Lucas said.

Enrollment this year is 117, down from 130 last year and 141 in the 2008–09 school year, Lucas said.

The district so far has had to cut $240,000 from its budget and those reductions were “really difficult,” Lucas said. Without new money from the property-tax override, a similar amount will have to be sliced out next year, and “It would be awful to cut that much from the budget again,” he said. “We can’t just cut, cut, cut and still offer quality programming.”

The single-building district is making progress that is threatened by lack of funding, school board member Don Metzler said.

He had hoped to “try pushing for excellence” in the district and building the kind of reputation that would attract people to send their children to De Beque, Metzler said. “Unfortunately, it looks like we’re going to struggle with trying to maintain that goal.”

The school district contains a part of Garfield County, in which the oil and gas industry pays 88 percent of property taxes, but the bulk of the district is in Mesa County, where the industry picks up about 34 percent of the bill, Lucas said.

That means the residential property owners will pick up the bulk of the cost, which amounts to 2.09 mills, or $16.64 a year on a house valued at $100,000, Lucas said.


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