The Bayfield School District has received a $8.56 million matching grant from the Colorado Department of Education to build a new elementary school.
The grant is contingent on local voters passing a $30 million bond issue to cover the rest of the construction cost.
"When we can bring eight-and-a-half million to the party, we hope that makes a big difference to the voters," Supertindenent Troy Zabel said last week when announcing the grant.
The district is asking for the funds to build a new elementary school for third through fifth grades near the current Bayfield Middle School. The bond also would pay for security upgrades and improved parking at the current elementary school, which would become a school for K-2 classes. The district wants to quit using - for good this time - the old Bayfield Middle School campus downtown. They moved out of it 20 years ago, then have had to use the gym and more classrooms as school enrollment has grown to 660 students.
The new building "should set us up for the next 20 to 25 years of growth," Zabel said.
The district hasn't raised property taxes in 20 years, in large part because oil and gas taxes have paid the lions' share of local property taxes, said Amy Lyons, the district's financial director.
In 2000, the district's debt mill levy was 12.835 mills. As assessed value increased over the next several years (primarily oil and gas, as well as growth in the district), the mill levy decreased to 5.26 in 2008, where it has remained since.
The last time a new school was built in the district was the high school in 1996, and that debt will be paid off in 2017.
A bond extension in 2012 was used to pay for a new baseball field and auditorium at BHS. That extended debt on the building without increasing taxes, Lyons said. The district's current debt of $16.705 million will be paid off by the year 2032. That debt includes the most recent improvements made at Bayfield High School, as well as a portion of debt from the initial building of Bayfield High School.
A citizens' group is forming to promote the bond issue, with Debbie Wilhelm chairing it.
Anyone interested in volunteering on the group is asked to call the district office at 884-2496.