Summit School Board looks ahead |

Summit School Board looks ahead

Julie Sutor

SUMMIT COUNTY – Summit Middle School is in desperate need of repair. Frisco Elementary School could use some updates. Summit High School needs space to house an expanding vocational-technical program.

The Summit school board Wednesday wrestled with a list of the district’s facilities needs and brainstormed possible funding scenarios for its construction and renovation wish-list.

“If we take the basic theory of growing the academics, growing our educational capabilities, the middle school is probably the core piece,” said board member Stuart Adams.

At the center of the debate is the expiration of a three-year mill levy passed by local voters in November 2001.

The mill levy provided cash funding for the construction of a new elementary school in Silverthorne, renovations of Breckenridge and Dillon Valley elementary schools, a facilities building at the bus barn and maintenance and technology improvements at schools.

The levy also provides funding for software, vocational technical programs and specialized teacher development.

As a result, more than 89 percent of the district’s general fund is allocated directly to educational services this year – a proportion much higher than many other districts in the state, according to Dan Huenneke, the district’s business services director.

Even the most temporary solutions to the problems at the middle school, including a new roof, carry a heavy price tag in the range of several million dollars.

Should such expenses come from the general fund, class sizes and special programs are bound to suffer, officials said.

However, a new mill levy at the current taxation rate, provided voters were to renew it, might not be enough to get the job done right, some board members worried.

“Fix the middle school, and there’s your mill levy,” Adams said. “Everything we could do at the middle school is a Band-Aid on top of a Band-Aid on top of a Band-Aid. I think we ought to give serious consideration to a new middle school at Farmer’s Korner. We have the potential for a really top-flight educational campus.”

“The middle school is 40 years of creative construction,” board member Jay Brunvand said.

“I think a facility at Farmer’s Korner would be nice,” board member Bob Bowers said. “We could save a lot of money with shared fields. From a transportation standpoint, it would be much more cost effective than putting a lot of money into (the existing middle school).”

Board president Marshall Denkinger proposed that a bond issue, in combination with a mill levy, might be necessary to fund the construction of a new school.

The important distinction is that the current mill levy pays for construction with cash, avoiding borrowing costs.

“I don’t think we can do the middle school at the Farmer’s Korner campus with a mill levy,” Denkinger said. “If we go with the mill levy, I’d like to see what we can get (through renovation), but I’m not interested in spending $8 or $12 million on something that’s going to have a short life cycle.

“Maybe we need to look at a mill levy to continue the maintenance and technology fund and build a middle school with a bond issue,” Denkinger added.

At the meeting’s conclusion, the board narrowed the possibilities down to two: “dream the budget” or “budget the dream.”

Board members charged Architectural Resource Consultants Inc. (ARC) with two tasks: (1) Develop a proposal for renovations that could be funded with a voter-approved mill levy at the current rate and (2) Provide a cost estimate for a campus at Farmer’s Korner that would include a new middle school and vocational/technical center.

The board will continue its discussion on the matter at its next meeting on Jan. 28.

Julie Sutor can be reached at (970) 668-3998, ext. 203, or at

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