School site choice better be right one |

School site choice better be right one

Two forces are propelling a decision on locating a new Silverthorne Elementary School at the controversial Cottonwood Park site.

One is the Summit School District’s genuine desire to give Silverthorne-area students a larger, mechanically sound, state-of-the-art school.

The other is to have a school open, or close to it, in time for a November 2004 vote to renew the three-year special property tax that is funding the new school and other construction and renovations districtwide on a cash basis.

We hope the latter is not driving the former, that the Board of Education truly believes it has chosen the best site for a school and is not rushing ahead on an inferior site. To this point in time, the school district is sure of its wisdom, even if future neighbors in the South Forty and Hamilton Creek neighborhoods think not.

We urge school board members to double-think whether their wisdom will hold up. If it doesn’t, many future school system improvements will be jeopardized.

In November 2001, voters backed the cash-on-the-barrel-head approach to school construction, renovation and long-term maintenance, but not by a wide margin.

Superintendent Wes Smith staked his prestige on the cash approach because compared to a traditional 20-year bond issue, taxpayers save interest payments that can total about 90 percent of the original amount borrowed.

He staked his reputation on the school district’s doing the right things to build the school and not getting mired in accountability and questionable construction decisions, as occurred with building the new Summit High School.

He bet the house on this point, because if voters believe otherwise, the special levy and cash flow disappear with payment of 2004 property tax bills.

Since 2001, the economy has slowed, and people were shocked by higher property taxes pumped up by the special mill levy going on top of reappraisals. It all portends a tough fight for a 2004 renewal strictly on a dollars and cents basis.

And the last thing the school district wants is to ask for money while not having built a new Silverthorne Elementary School.

We think what really would be worse is building a school on an inferior site, thus we ask that school board members gut-check their decision.

Having said that, the plans we’ve seen for the new school promise Silverthorne will be getting a trophy school. The building is designed to take advantage of natural lighting and views while being energy efficient and nurturing of education.

The whole community will be proud of it – when it’s built.

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