Mill levy, bond issues pass
summit daily news
SUMMIT COUNTY ” Summit School District passed with flying colors Tuesday at the ballot box.
Local voters approved two local property tax measures that will fund broad facilities renovations and expansions and keep millions of dollars inside Summit classrooms.
Measures 3A and 3B passed by 63 percent and 60 percent, respectively ” a marked increase in voter support from the existing mill levy, which garnered 51 percent of local votes three years ago.
“To me, it just shows we live in a community that supports good education for our children,” said campaign organizer Debbie Nelson.
“One of the backbones of this election was (schools superintendent) Millie Hamner. She has truly reached out to the community, opened her doors and listened. That was a key factor.”
Measure 3B is a $32.5 million bond issue that will fund renovations, additions and upgrades at Frisco Elementary School, Summit High School and, most notably, Summit Middle School, the district’s oldest building.
The district will spend $22.7 million of the bond money to demolish and rebuild much of the outdated middle school. The high school will get a new wing for career and technical programs and Frisco Elementary will be home to a new media center and five new classrooms.
Measure 3A, the Special Building, Maintenance and Technology mill levy, will generate an additional $4 million annually for three years to fund technology improvements in schools and ongoing facilities maintenance, thereby freeing up money in the general fund for educational programs.
School district officials had projected that, if the measure failed, they would have eliminated 27 teachers, resulting in larger class sizes.
“I’m really excited about creating a state-of-the-art career and technical program at the high school that can have regional appeal and draw students from outside Summit County,” said school board president Kristy Johnson. “I’m also excited about having a new middle school that’s two small learning environments. That’s going to be so much better for all the kids.”
Currently, a Summit County homeowner with a $400,000 home pays about $242 annually to the school district in property taxes. Because the new mill levy is at a lower rate than the existing tax, Tuesday’s passage of both ballot measures will result in an annual charge of $146 for the same home, beginning next year.
School district officials, board members, parents and community members waged an aggressive grassroots campaign that began in January in support of 3A and 3B.
“What was dramatically different this time was the support we received from the community in general. There wasn’t a day that went by without a phone call or an e-mail asking, ‘What can I do? Whom do I write a check to? How do I get a yard sign?’
“I’m going through e-mail withdrawal,” Nelson said.
Johnson said she felt the district leadership did a better job of explaining “what a mill levy is and how horrible the state financial situation is,” that leaves Colorado ranked in the mid-40s in per-pupil school funding, relative to other states.
The campaign came on the heels of a controversial leadership transition in the district last spring, which had many worrying how strong voter support would be for the multi-million dollar questions.
“I do feel there’s closure. I was very concerned last spring. But these numbers give a message to Millie and the board: ‘All right, we’re behind you and we trust you,'” Nelson said.
According to Johnson, the board will waste no time launching projects outlined in the two ballot measures. Board members will hold a retreat on Nov. 16 to begin plans, and the district will start the search for architectural design teams this month.
“We’re so excited and thankful to the community for supporting the schools. We plan to do the very best we can,” Johnson said.
Julie Sutor can be reached at (970) 668-3998, ext. 203, or at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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