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El Paso County Colorado District 49

Why the Board of Education Rejected the TERMS Behind the Developers’ Offer

As many of you know, our district administration has been working diligently for years to convince the development community that because they are part of the growth problem, they must be part of the growth solution. After all that effort and after losing two straight ballot questions to build new schools, why in the world did the board say “NO” to what appeared on the surface to be a very generous offer of $1,500 donated to the district for every house built? Some have said it’s because the school board prefers the entire tax burden to be carried by the homeowners. But, since the board members are also property owners, that argument doesn’t hold a lot of water. Hopefully, this explanation will provide, as commentator Paul Harvey might say, “The rest of the story …”Board President Paul Bryant explained it this way at the May 5 board meeting. “Let’s say the board made an employee what appeared to be a very generous offer for next year which included a big raise and lucrative perks. While the offer sure looks good, you had better inquire about the terms. If the terms of the offer meant that you’d have to work with your hands tied behind your back, the offer might lose its luster.” So it was with the developer’s donation – the offer looked good on the surface but the board could not live with the terms that were attached.The developers dictated that the donation (estimated to be as high as $20 million over 10 years) would ONLY be forthcoming if the board of education places a bond referendum – not a mill levy override – on the November ballot. A mill levy override will cause them to withdraw all offers of financial support to the district. Due to state law limitations, only about $45 million in new projects could be pursued with a bond referendum. A mill levy override would allow the district to pursue $85 to $90 million in new schools.Last year, a citizens’ facility study committee recommended the district pursue a $77 million mill levy override to temporarily catch up with growth. Recently, another citizens’ committee recommended that we pursue an even more expensive mill levy override this November. They understood that a bond referendum would not, repeat, will not provide the resources to respond to our current needs.If only one-half of the needed schools are built, where should they be built? Which of our patrons should be “winners” with new schools and which should be “losers” with badly crowded, older schools? The BOE does not believe it is fair to ask our voting public for half of the schools that we need and then turn around and institute year-round schools or split sessions for the rest of the district, even though the people with those schools would be paying taxes for schools they didn’t receive. Additionally, there would be no legal way for the school district to ensure the $1,500 contribution would actually be delivered, as they are considered “voluntary” fees on the part of the builders. If times get tight and the builder has to cut costs, the building department cannot and will not withhold a building permit to a builder who chooses to not contribute the fee to the district.Finally, the approach by the development community would completely exhaust our bonding capacity for several years to come. We know, if the growth continues the way is has and almost undoubtedly it will, our district will need an additional nearly $100 million in new schools by 2008 or 2009. If we pay for today’s schools with a mill levy override instead of bond, then we will have the bonding capacity in a few years to pay for needed schools with a bond, instead of an override.Rest assured that we will continue to work with the development community and are hopeful that they will remove the strings attached to their offer. Just as you would not accept an offer that tied your hands, the BOE cannot delegate decision making to the development community and accept a donation that ties them to providing one-half of the new schools that we need today.

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