Our schools have set themselves apart as beacons of excellence for many years, with one of the highest graduation rates in the state. As a result, many students from surrounding districts choose to travel to attend here.
Local and travelling students, as well as the parents of those children, deserve facilities worthy of their commitment to academic excellence and their resulting accomplishments.
Our existing facilities are not only 10 years past their planned obsolescence; they are at serious risk of incurring major financial investments should any catastrophic failure occur in their aging infrastructure.
They are also largely inadequate for keeping up with the ongoing modernization of state programmatic efforts.
To better serve our youth, and thus our entire community, by constructing two state-of-the-art schools. These schools will operate with a focus on student needs and district programming, and will reflect significant improvements over our existing schools in several key areas:
The mill rate and actual tax levy is FAR less than the perceptions of some in our community. You can prove it for yourself by using the tax calculator here.
The initial analysis for this project began 5 years ago, with a Facilities Audit by the School District. Even then, the study revealed that the cost of remodeling was close to that of new construction. A "Phased In" project option from five years ago was also estimated at a comparable cost to the current project. Cost per square foot for the project has been vetted by several builders across the state and confirmed to be in line with other school construction.
For this recent effort, a robust level of due diligence has been performed by several experts in their respective fields.
The design for the proposed schools was developed over the course of two years by the Community Design Advisory Group in conjunction with LKA Partners (a Colorado architecture firm specializing in largescale school construction projects).
For additional information about these considerations, see ‘What’s Included…’ in the Straight Answers to Common Questions section.
Our existing school buildings are 10 years past their planned obsolescence. This means, not only are our current facilities incapable of keeping up with modern programmatic needs, major failures can be expected, costing millions to repair. Interest rates are projected to increase in coming months. By approving in November, we can take advantage of lower borrowing rates. Construction costs are predicted to increase by 5-10% in 2017. The longer the project is delayed, the more expensive it will become.
Additionally, due to several ad-hoc expansions and additions, several classrooms don’t have windows or adequate ventilation. Such an environment is not conducive to the mental focus needed for learning, and is unworthy of our students.
The public will have the same access and rights to use the new facilities as they have for the current facilities. In fact, the school board will find it rewarding to see these wonderful new facilities utilized by the community.
Only voters in the school district can determine how much he/she is willing to pay in school bond taxes, and that is why the measure has been put on the ballot. Rigorous, diligent efforts have been made to completely evaluate this project and to share our findings with the community.
A volunteer community group, BV Peaks (Buena Vista Partners Engaged Around Kids’ Success), formed to consider, plan, and evaluate options for the proposed new facility.
Approximately 50 community members representing a wide array of community interests, including business owners, parents, retirees and educators, as well as the pre-bond facility design architecture firm LKA Partners, contributed to the process.
Also, the original price was lowered after BV Peaks heard concerns by local business owners (see ‘What’s the price’? below).
Quite the opposite is true. Cost of building materials alone will greatly increase by buying them incrementally. Also, any builder will tell you; building projects involves costs in simply setting up a job site (transportation costs, setting up and dismantling the job site, clean up, etc.). Repeating those setups for each ‘phase’ will add significant costs.
Additionally the impacts on student learning would only increase by ‘phased construction’, by prolonging the distractions and noise of construction over a longer period of time, and extending any potential down time of facilities required.
The short answer: our children and our entire community at large.
Our schools have set themselves apart as beacons of excellence for many years, with one of the highest graduation rates in the state. As a result, many students from surrounding districts choose to travel here to attend.
Both our local students, those travelling students going to such lengths to give themselves the best education possible, as well as the parents of those children, deserve facilities worthy of their academic efforts and accomplishments.
Additionally, 82% of our students are involved in extracurricular activities, including athletics, clubs, performing arts, and creative arts.
Our children deserve both our commitment to nurturing their academic and creative excellence, and rewarding their accomplishments. Providing them with updated resources and a vastly improved environment will accomplish both.
There are several factors making now the right time to move forward with this measure.
In addition to the fact that our existing school buildings are 10 years past their planned obsolescence 2, several critical maintenance issues with our current middle and high schools will need to be addressed in the near future if new facilities are not built.
The resulting costs of repairing these outdated and deteriorating facilities, will continue to climb.
Also, an unexpected major failure, such as the roof, plumbing, or electrical systems, would require an emergency investment that could be as large as $1,000,000 to repair or replace. Spending further money on facilities that have outlasted their planned obsolescence would be fiscally irresponsible.
Additionally, the following facts should be taken into consideration:
The principle “reasons why” are the same as stated above for both schools: facilities that are beyond their planned obsolescence, a high risk of serious maintenance failures, and children from both schools need updated resources and facilities to nurture their commitment to excellence and to keep up with the latest educational program needs.
The proposed new facility will preserve the current number of classrooms, and contain additional athletic facilities and an auditorium 3.
The new facilities will include updates to existing shared facilities such as the industrial arts building, athletic gyms and fields, choir room, band room, art facilities, cooking lab, media center, cafeteria, parking lot, and courtyard.
Additionally the new facilities will allow new sharing of administrative office space and an auditorium.
The design for the proposed schools was developed over the course of two years by the BV Peaks community group in conjunction with LKA Partners (knowledgeable Colorado architecture firm specializing in largescale school construction projects). The result involved the following process and considerations:
The proposed combined new schools are projected to cost $52M. This amount was determined through a rigorous process involving the community and experts in large scale school projects, and is the amount of the proposed bond issue appearing on the November 2016 ballot.
Research on recent school building projects in neighboring communities shows that building the two schools separately could cost approximately $70M, as opposed to the proposed bond issue of $52M for the combined schools.
Here are more facts about how the price was derived:
Our bond consultant, Stifel, has determined from Chaffee County Assessor records that the borrowing limit for 2016 is $89 million, significantly more than the maximum anticipated borrowing of $52 million.
A great question, and thanks for asking! Here are some great places to start:
The Request for Proposal (RFP) for the design and construction of the new facility will go out immediately upon passage of the ballot measure. Additionally, the School Board will hire an owner’s representative to oversee the project and make recommendations.
If the bond issue passes, residential and commercial property taxes will increase. The Gallagher Amendment specifies the tax rate for personal residences and businesses in our State. The District has no control over those rates4. See Appendix 4 for a Letter to the Editor of the Chaffee County Times explaining the Gallagher Amendment.
However, this increase is less than many people think. For example:
|Residential Actual Value||Residential Assesed Value||Annual Real Estate Tax Impact|
(Average home in BV)
The annual impact is the average impact over the 20 year life of the bond. The bond payments have fixed annnual principal payments and interest at fixed value . This information is based on Chaffee County data, 2016 taxes paid in 2017. The average home in Town of Buena Vista is valued approximately $240,000.00
|Commercial Actual Value||Commercial Assesed Value||Annual Real Estate Tax Impact|
The annual impact is the average impact over the 20 year life of the bond. The bond payments have fixed annnual principal payments and interest at fixed value . This information is based on Chaffee County data, 2016 taxes paid in 2017
To calculate your exact annual increase, see the simple tax calculator. Here are some statistics about where we fall in the state:
SHALL BUENA VISTA SCHOOL DISTRICT NO. R31 DEBT BE INCREASED UP TO $52 MILLION, WITH A REPAYMENT COST OF UP TO $81 MILLION, AND SHALL DISTRICT TAXES BE INCREASED UP TO $4.3 MILLION ANNUALLY, WITH THE PROCEEDS OF SUCH DEBT TO BE USED FOR THE FOLLOWING PURPOSES INCLUDING:
AND SHALL THE MILL LEVY BE INCREASED IN ANY YEAR WITHOUT LIMITATION AS TO RATE BUT ONLY IN AN AMOUNT SHALL BE SUFFICIENT TO PAY THE PRINCIPAL OF AND PREMIUM, IF ANY, AND INTEREST ON SUCH DEBT OR ANY REFUNDING DEBT WHEN DUE;
THE AUTHORITY FOR SUCH TAX AND MILL LEVY INCREASE TO TERMINATE WHEN THE DEBT OR REFUNDING DEBT IS PAID;
SUCH DEBT TO BE EVIDENCED BY THE ISSUANCE OF GENERAL OBLIGATION BONDS OR OTHER MULTIPLE FISCAL YEAR FINANCIAL OBLIGATIONS WHICH MAY BE SOLD FROM TIME TO TIME IN AN AGGREGATE AMOUNT NOT TO EXCEED THE MAXIMUM AUTHORIZED PRINCIPAL AMOUNT AND REPAYMENT COST, ON TERMS AND CONDITIONS AS THE DISTRICT MAY DETERMINE, INCLUDING PROVISIONS FOR REDEMPTION OF THE BONDS PRIOR TO MATURITY WITH OR WITHOUT PAYMENT OF THE PREMIUM;
AND SHALL THE DISTRICT’S DEBT LIMIT BE INCREASED FROM AN AMOUNT EQUAL TO 20% OF THE
DISTRICT'S ASSESSED VALUE TO AN AMOUNT EQUAL TO 6% OF THE DISTRICT'S ACTUAL VALUE, AS CERTIFIED BY THE COUNTY ASSESSOR OF CHAFFEE COUNTY?
The Buena Vista High School, the gym, now known as the Middle School Gym, and cafeteria were built in 1964. Records state this was a pre-engineered metal building.
Interesting fact: The dishwasher that is currently used in the middle/high school cafeteria was acquired from Camp Hale in 1966. Camp Hale was established in 1942 in west central Colorado to provide winter and mountain warfare training during World War II and was deactivated and control of the lands returned to the Forest Service in 1966. This fact puts the age of the dishwasher at 24 when it was acquired by the District, making it the oldest piece of equipment still operating on the property at 74 years.
Outbuildings including the warehouse and maintenance buildings were built in 1975 (41yrs). The PE Complex was built in 1977 (39yrs), the concession stand in 1985 (31yrs), PE storage in 1987 (29yrs), press box in 2001 and the modular storage in 2007.
The Harry L. McGinnis Middle School, (the name has been shortened to McGinnis Middle School throughout the years), including the original library which was located at the south end of the building was built in 1972.
The original library was remodeled in 1977. The music and art building was completed in 1977 (39yrs).
The Industrial Arts Building was built in 1990 (26yrs).
The Library/Media Center which now connects the middle and high schools was built in 1998.
Chaffee County Times, 8/4/16
As reported in the July 21 Times, a bond issue for a new high school complex is now under consideration for the November ballot. And, as reported on page 4, a number of local business owners are concerned about the negative impact that this proposed tax increase will have upon their businesses.
But the real story is that, in 1982, Colorado citizens voted for a property tax remedy called the Gallagher Amendment. Following upon the heels of California’s 1978 “Proposition 13” property tax revolt, Gallagher shifted the majority of our property tax burden onto the minority of taxpayers, most of whom are small business owners.
In brief, Gallagher mandates that 45 percent of our state’s total property tax revenues be derived from residential property and the remaining 55 percent from commercial. To hold the 45/55 ratio constant, residential tax rates are allowed to “float” in relation to their assessed value while commercial tax rates are fixed at 29 percent of their assessed value. This taxation sleight-of-hand guarantees that residential will continue to pay far less than its fair share of total property tax revenues.
Our current problem with the Gallagher taxation formula is that the value of residential real estate is far outpacing the value of commercial. Following our 1996 elementary school bond election, for example, business owners began paying double the equivalent residential property tax. Following our 2013 elementary annex bond election, business owners began paying triple the equivalent residential tax.
Speaking as a former local business owner, any small business must offset increased property taxes by increasing its market share or its prices. Neither of these options are possible or desirable in a limited, smalltown retail market. On the flip side, the Class of 2028 will be starting school this fall. These kids deserve classrooms equipped to prepare them for the highly skilled, college bound and vocational employment markets of 2028.
Small businesses should not have to choose between education and economic survival.
Thanks to Gallagher, any future school bond election will not take place under an intelligent tax policy. For this reason alone, we need to prevail upon our General Assembly to create a new and more equitable taxation formula.
But, if this bond election does indeed appear on the November ballot, I hope that most of us can bite the tax bullet and vote for the Class of 2028.
Gary E. Goms
From recent articles published in the Chaffee County Times, many residents and commercial property owners in the Buena Vista School District boundaries are aware the School Board recently approved for the November 8 election a ballot question asking the electors to consider a bond to support the replacement of two of our aging buildings, McGinnis Middle School and Buena Vista High School. The Board’s decision was based upon a five-year master facility plan begun in 2011.
The plan identified a portion of the elementary school, the middle school gym, along with structural and mechanical issues of the middle and high schools as the highest priorities in the district for replacement due to health and safety concerns. At the time, it was determined to begin with the smaller project, the elementary school wing, so that critical program and staff needs resulting from the state of Colorado underfunding all school districts, a loss of nearly one million dollars annually for Buena Vista, could also be addressed.
Our local community overwhelmingly approved a mil to restore the funding not received from the state so the district could maintain programs, move staff salaries to the median of surrounding districts and secondarily, replace the elementary school wing.
We continue to be thankful to the community for supporting our schools in 2012. It has been part of the master facility plan to attend to the structural, mechanical, and program needs at the middle and high school identified as high priorities over five years ago.
In fall of 2014, the Board of Education commissioned a community group, staff members, and an architectural firm to create a conceptual feasibility design and to estimate construction costs to address these remaining priority needs.
On August 22, the Board officially approved the ballot question asking voters if property tax dollars can be used to build a new middle and high school on the current site at a price not to exceed $52,000,000.
Typically, once a measure has been approved to be on the ballot, an informational campaign begins.
In the case of this issue, some of our local commercial property owners, who would bear a larger percentage of the tax burden than the residential property owner (the front page of the Chaffee County Times, September 2 edition, explained Colorado’s Gallagher amendment responsible for this taxing system), came to the School Board even before the issue was officially on the ballot with questions about the scope and process used to determine the project.
Since that time, I, along with other district staff and Board members, have listened and acted upon the questions about the project. There are three categories of questions that have been raised:
1) was a thoughtful, well-researched process used to determine the scope and need for the project;
2) is the project too costly;
3) are alternative sources of funding, besides tax dollars, available to build this project.
Since becoming superintendent in July, I have acted upon a commitment to connect with the stakeholders of our school district to partner in this project and respond honestly to these questions. I will continue to do so.
It is my belief, community members deserve facts to make an informed decision. Each voter needs accurate data related to the three questions above in order to determine if this is the right project to meet the needs of our students. I believe it is.
Now that the question is on the ballot, there are many stakeholders who are working to communicate through a variety of formats so electors get the information needed to make an informed decision: a website of questions and answers; a tax calculator to determine the monthly impact on an individual family or business; tours of the facilities to identify mechanical, structural, and program needs; individual and small group conversations and presentations.
In addition, I, along with the Board of Education, am committed to securing alternate funding sources to reduce the financial impact on our residents and commercial property owners.
Since July, I have already reduced construction fees by $7,000,000. I will continue these efforts. I believe the schools are an asset to our community and contribute richly to the economic and relational vitality of Buena Vista. Please reach out and be proactive in getting facts.
The first facility tour and Q and A session will be September 14, 9:00-10:00 a.m. at Buena Vista High School. Because students will be in session, we ask you please call the school district office to let us know you will be coming so we can plan for your attendance. 719-395-7999.
I ask you to partner with the schools through this election season by being informed, assuming good intent, and standing on the common ground we share of wanting the best for our students and community.
Superintendent, Buena Vista School District