Homework: Kids Voting October 06, 2008

Mesa County Valley School District 51 has put bond questions 3A and 3B on the November ballot. At a cost of $6 million, the override in 3A will pay for the functioning of new schools.

To put this in perspective, it takes Palisade High School about $6 million to operate in one year. 3B would provide $185 million toward the construction of new schools and the maintenance of existing schools.

The cost to a taxpayer with a home valued at $250,000 would be $6.16 per month on the mill levy to operate the new schools (3A) and $11.10 per month for the construction and renovation projects (3B). 3A is contingent on the passage of 3B. Students will consider only issue 3B on the Kids Voting ballot.

3B would provide funds for two new high schools, one on Orchard Mesa, the other in the Appleton area, and also two new elementary schools, one in Fruita and the other in north Grand Junction.

Additionally, it will go toward the rebuilding of Orchard Mesa Middle School, which has been in operation for about 50 years. The district will complete repairs, maintenance and buy more land with whatever funds might be left after construction.

According to district projections, the valley should expect around 1,500 new students in the next five years.

The district had estimated 256 students would be new this year, but Superintendent Tim Mills reported that 832 more students enrolled this year. An average elementary school only holds 400 kids.

The district believes 554 new pupils will be enrolled next year. Based on projections, 445 new elementary students will be coming in 2010.

According to District 51’s Communications Department, the district’s general fund focuses on salaries and instructional costs. Capital reserve dollars are tied up in building leases, annual maintenance costs and a computer leasing contract. This leaves no money for new construction.

Furthermore, with the average age of buildings at 38 years and about 60 percent of them being built before 1970, the entire district has needs that would be addressed with the passage of the bond.

At present,  approximately $33 million of high-priority repairs and renovations are beyond the scope of the annual maintenance plan.

“You have to decide for yourself — an additional cost because of taxes, or an investment into the educational system. It is hard to find support for new taxes, regardless of the economy, good or bad,” said Jeff Kirtland, the District 51 communications coordinator.

On the other side of the coin, what about those who don’t support the bond issue?

“We already gave Mesa State College $1 million, and I don’t have children in school. It’s an income decrease, and it’ll make it harder to get things we need,” said John P. Nisley, a local citizen.

To him, the District 51 bond issue simply means, “Another tax!”

The election is Nov. 4.

Briana Hendrickson is an Orchard Mesa Middle School student reporting on election issues for The Daily Sentinel in conjunction with Kids Voting of Mesa County.


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