Dozens attend initial community forum about schools mill levy, bond

Nearly 30 people showed up to a community forum on Monday night for School District 51’s proposed bond measure and mill levy override, the first of many public events that political issue committee Citizens for School District 51 is hosting to garner community support leading up to the November election.

The forum, held at R-5 High School and sponsored by parent-teacher organizations and associations from local schools, was the first time that Cheryl Masters heard what the proposed tax measures would cost.

“You see all the big numbers, the millions and billions of dollars that need to be spent, and you wonder how we’re going to afford that. But for $10 a month, anyone can do that,” she said.

If passed, the annual tax increase on a $200,000 home for the bond and mill would be approximately $118, nearly $10 a month.

Masters’ daughter is in fourth-grade at Pomona Elementary School, and Masters is the president of the school’s parent-teacher organization.

Masters said when she found out about the forum last week, she printed out 377 fliers that were sent home with Pomona parents. But none came to the forum.

“They’re right on that they need to get the word out, because parents don’t know what this is about,” Masters said.

District staff and committee members who presented on Monday focused on the nuts and bolts of the proposed bond measure and mill levy override.

The $118.5 million bond measure would pay for $55 million in school repairs, $40 million for a new Orchard Mesa Middle School, $11 million for classroom technology, $5 million for a gym at Dual Immersion Academy, $5 million for an additional gym at Palisade High School and $2.5 million for school security upgrades.

The $6.5 million mill levy override, which would sunset after 10 years, would pay for ongoing costs such as $3.2 million for five additional school days, $2 million for curriculum, $1 million for ongoing school repairs and $300,000 for technology support.

Dan Prinster, vice president of business development at St. Mary’s Medical Center and former president of the District 51 Foundation, told forum attendees that the school district maintains twice the square-footage of St. Mary’s at half of the budget.

Prinster’s statement stuck with Fawn Lawrence, a Wingate Elementary School parent who also serves on the school’s parent-teacher association.

Lawrence said she’s heard positive things about the school district’s campaign in the community.

“I’m surprised that tonight I heard a lot of comments of ‘Why aren’t we doing more? Why are we adding five days and not 10 days? Why are we doing just Orchard Mesa, why not also Grand Junction High School?’” Lawrence said. “It sounds like momentum is building.”

Citizens for School District 51 will host seven “Community Conversations with the School District 51 school board” in coming weeks, including at 6 p.m. Sept. 7 at Palisade High School, 3:15 p.m. Sept. 13 at Gateway School and 6 p.m. Sept. 21 at Orchard Mesa Middle School.


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