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D 49 on November ballot

Falcon School District 49 has placed a mill levy override and bond measure on the Nov. 1 ballot in an effort to replenish funding after severe budget cuts. The measures would cover operational costs, build new facilities to alleviate overcrowding, expand the current transportation program and recruit new teachers.As stated in Ballot Issue No. 3G, The bond measure is set at $85 million and will increase property taxes by about $1.50 per month per each $100,000 of home value. The money will be used to build a new elementary school near Falcon Middle School, remodel Horizon Middle School, expand Vista Ridge High School, expand Falcon High School and construct a new K-8 school to relieve future overcrowding.”This is really an investment in the community. We have taken big cuts in the past and created efficiencies as a result, but to make any more improvements in student achievement we have to have funds,” said Brett Ridgway, chief business officer at D 49.District 49 currently serves 14,708 students, a growing number because of many young communities in the area. According to Ridgway, Horizon Middle School is a huge district concern because it’s undersized and outdated. The lack of room at Horizon has caused overflow to Skyview Middle School, which currently holds 1,000 students.”The schools are overcrowded,” Ridgway said. “There are 56 modular buildings designed to handle overcrowding and they are great temporary solutions, but they cost a lot of money and are inefficient.”The bond question as described on the ballot will also address future overcrowding at Vista Ridge High School and Falcon High School. Both high schools would have an additional wing added, which would increase capacity from 1,200 students to 1,600 students.”In the end, there is no other solution but to pass a bond. That is the only thing that will help in this situation,” Ridgway said.While Ridgway maintains that Skyview Middle School is the biggest issue with overcrowding, Meridian Ranch Elementary School and Woodmen Hills Elementary School are at capacity and a new elementary school is needed.”The reality is that the economy is not coming around fast enough for us to make enough state revenue,” said Andy Holloman, D 49 board treasurer.According to Ballot Issue No. 3F, the mill levy override is targeting $5 million a year for six years, which will increase property taxes by $4.70 a month per $100,000 in home value. The money will be used to keep class sizes manageable, attract and retain qualified teachers, update classroom technology and expand the current fee-for-service bussing system. The mill levy override is aimed toward the classroom and focuses on boosting student achievement. It would also create more bus stops in the 2012-2013 school year, which would boost accessibility to transportation.”When we had a bigger, more robust transportation system; we only serviced 3,000 out of 14,000 students,” Ridgway said. “Bussing is a very visible service, but less than 20 percent of the students benefit from it.” A fee to ride the bus remains.District 49 is one of three districts in the state that doesn’t have an operational mill levy, which would add more funding into the classroom, Holloman said.Although there has been a decrease in state and federal funding, D49 has increased the percentage of budgeted classroom money.Holloman said that last year 70 percent of D49’s $84 million budget was directed to the classroom. This year, the district has a $72 million budget and 80 percent of those dollars have been directed to the classroom. They also cut back four employees with salaries over $100,000.Regarding the mill levy override and bond measure, Holloman said, “Could it be worse? Absolutely. But do we want to wait for it to be worse before we make these important decisions?”These are hard times we are in. We have a lot of hard decisions to make,” Holloman said.In addition to voting for the mill levy override and bond measure, voters will be electing new members to the board of education. Andy Holloman will be running for re-election. Chris Wright and Tammy Harold will remain on the board until the end of their term.Starting early in October, community members can see interviews with candidates for the board on the District 49 Facebook page.For more information on the mill levy override and bond measure, visit the D49 Web site at

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