Decision time has arrived for Durango School District 9-R about investments it will make over the next decade in new schools and security and maintenance upgrades at existing buildings.
Among the priorities that have emerged from a six-month review of its 10-year facilities master plan are:
A relocation of Florida Mesa Elementary School, most likely to Three Springs.A demolition and rebuild of Miller Middle School on its current site.The construction of a career-technical building for education in skills such as building trades, auto mechanics, culinary education and other job-oriented certificate programs, likely to be built on the campus of Durango High School.An upgrade of safety and security at all schools.Final decisions have not yet been made, but a review of how the district came up with its priorities will be provided to the public beginning next week, along with ideas to finance the construction. Costs are estimated to range from $90 million to $120 million and will require voter approval, which, if the Board of Education approves, will be on the November ballot.
“We need to be very mindful of how we are utilizing resources from our community and must be very specific on how those dollars would be spent,” said Deputy Superintendent Andy Burns in an interview Wednesday. “And so we want to make sure that we are very clear and straightforward about how those dollars and proceeds would be applied across all of our schools.”
On Monday, from 5:30 to 7 p.m. at Fort Lewis Elementary School, 11274 Colorado Highway 140, the first of a series of meetings to present ideas in the master plan for each school will be held. Meetings will take place at all of the district’s facilities.
“We’re going to have meetings so the community members can come in and look at the building, see some of the projects that would be applied at that individual school and get feedback from the individuals on our facilities plan, projects that need to be prioritized and their feedback on our process,” Burns said.
Already the district has engaged community members in its Long-Range Planning Committee and sent out two surveys seeking public input about priorities for facility updates in the next decade. The meetings at the schools will offer additional opportunities for public engagement.
“Hearing back from our community members is essential for this process to be successful and to make sure that our buildings reflect the needs and values of our community,” Burns said.
The schedule for meetings at all the schools is expected to be finalized next week. Additionally, the Board of Education is expected to get an update about the status of the facilities master plan at its meeting at 5:30 p.m. Tuesday at the Central Administration Building, 201, E. 12th St.
The district has taken some action guided by the work on the update of the facilities plan.
9-R is seeking two BEST grants from the state, one that would provide an estimated $3.6 million for security and safety upgrades in all 9-R schools and a second that would cover 24% of the cost of relocating Florida Mesa Elementary.
If voters approve $90 million to finance the upgrades, taxpayers would not notice a tax increase, because the new bonds would be offset by retirement of old bonds. However, Burns said the $90 million option would not finance all the projects envisioned in the facilities master plan update.
If voters approve $120 million to finance upgrades, Burns said the owner of a $500,000 home would see his or her taxes increase by an estimated $30 per year. The owner of a business with an assessed value of $5 million would see his or her property taxes increase by about $1,500 a year.
If voters reject all bond proposals, Burns estimated the total property tax bill for the owner of a $400,000 home would go down by $166 a year.