Sunsetting mill levy put $17 million into Summit Schools |

Sunsetting mill levy put $17 million into Summit Schools

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Summit Daily/Mark Fox

This holiday season brings a chance for Summit County property owners to put some money back in their pockets, at least as far as the Summit School District mill levy is concerned.

A voter-approved mill levy from 2007 sunsets in December, said Karen Strakbein, the district’s assistant superintendent of business services. During its three-year course, it raised more than $17 million that went straight into building and maintenance projects – more than 300 of them.

On Election Day, the 2007 levy was replaced with a new tax, at about a third of the current rate, meant to fund district operations. Strakbein estimated that the nearly 4 mills currently being assessed will be replaced by about 1 mill, but said a final determination hasn’t been made.

The $2.1 million of revenue from the new tax is meant to soften the blow of anticipated budget cuts from the state that could amount to more than $2 million, Strakbein said. This year, the district trimmed $867,000 and froze teacher pay.

The 2007 levy brought in $5.2 million in 2008, $5.3 million in 2009 and $6.5 million in 2010.

The funds were spent on “large dollar amount upkeep,” Strakbein said, including many projects that aren’t necessarily visible but help with the overall operation of facilities.

She added that Colorado is different from other states in that districts are allowed to go to the voters for capital improvement funding. Other states require those funds to come out of the operating budget, which can affect education, she said.

“Those dollars were really put to use,” she said. “We’re blessed to have the support of the taxpayers … to manage our assets in a way that keeps them out of disrepair.”

The biggest, most visible improvement was installing vestibules in each school that allows the front desk to check IDs and ensure visitors are appropriate and accounted for.

It ensures a “safe and secure environment for students,” Strakbein said.

Bus and parent parking and drop-off at Summit Middle School was revamped, as was the bus loop drop-off at Dillon Valley Elementary. A new roundabout was installed at Summit High School, and the Summit Stage stop was moved from the east side of Colorado Highway 9 to the interior of the school’s campus.

Such changes address safety concerns during the mayhem of traffic patterns that occur at the start and end of each school day.

Other improvements include roof repair, parking lot improvements and expansions, new doors, heaters, boilers, gym floors, cafeteria alterations, painting, carpeting and more.

Strakbein said approximately $1.5 million – about $300,000 per year for five years – has been retained for future improvements, both expected and unexpected. A five-year master plan created during the process includes an outlook on projects that didn’t need immediate attention.

SDN reporter Janice Kurbjun can be contacted at (970) 668-4630 or at

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