Berthoud Weekly Surveyor | Covering all the angles in the Garden Spot

Busy week for TSD Board

February 01, 2019 | Education

By Dan Karpiel

The Surveyor

With classes back in session for the spring semester, the Thompson School District (TSD) Board of Education has hit the ground running, tackling several important issues for families all across the district.

Among these, the TSD board has agreed to examine fees charged for sports, field trips, advanced-placement classes and other extras for which families pay an additional fee. The district sold the bonds for school maintenance and other capital projects as approved by voters last November and made plans to move forward with earlier approved plans closing and remodeling a pair of  Loveland elementary schools.

With regard to the decision to look at fees charged, the board decided to form a subcommittee to examine the scope of fees charged by the district for extras, which range from sports and music activities to field trips and advanced classes. Board members cautioned there is not a one-size-fits-all approach to various fee schedules, and a balance must be struck between providing needed funding for the activities but also make sure not to price-out families, some of whom already struggle paying the extra fees for their children to participate in various activities.

TSD is unique in that it caps the maximum amount a family will pay in a school year for athletics, currently set at $325 per family for high-school students and $125 for middle-school students. Each high-school student pays $125 per sport and middle schools $50 per sport, however, if a family has multiple children involved in sports, that figure will not exceed the $325 for high school and $125 for middle school for the school year. Thus, a family with three high-school students who each play one sport per season, for nine total in the school year, is saving $800 a year.

Furthermore, the district allows families with students on the free and reduced-lunch programs to apply for waivers for athletic and other fees, but not all families who are in a financial pinch qualify for the waivers.

District athletic directors approached TSD on Jan. 9 and asked board members to vote to remove that family maximum, arguing it costs their departments the needed funding for equipment, officials and travel expenses. According to district chief financial officer, Gordon Jones, the schools took in $759,737 from extra fees, but that number would have been close to $450,000 higher without the caps.

On Jan. 16 TSD went through the sale of the bonds approved by voters in November for construction, renovation and back-logged maintenance needs across the district. The district partnered with Stifel, a Denver-based underwriter chosen through a competitive-bidding process, to enact the sale of the bonds. According to Jones, the money will be “in the bank” by the end of January.

The $149 million in bonds were approved by voters but the sale, thanks to current market rates, will result in an additional $34.8 million in revenue. The district must decide how best to use that additional funding, with several proposals put on the table for consideration.

The ballot language stipulates the funding must be used: to upgrade school building safety, security and fire alarm systems, build and furnish a new kindergarten through eighth grade school that will be located on the east side of Interstate 25, add classrooms to Ivy Stockwell and Berthoud Elementary, and expand the useful life of current school buildings by upgrading and improving heating, ventilation and cooling systems, mechanical controls, windows, roofing, doors and upgrading obsolete technology.

 

Board member Dave Levy argued one option for the premium would be to pay down the debt more quickly, but that is not allowed in the ballot language, according to Jones. This proposal was rejected by a 6-1 vote at the regular board meeting on Jan. 23 and the proposal to move ahead with plans to close, renovate and repurpose Loveland’s Stansberry and Van Buran Elementary Schools.  Was approved????

Stansberry will be repurposed into an early-childhood education center, while Van Buren will become a career and technical education (CTE) facility and serve as the new home for students who would attend Ferguson High School. This proposal’s projected cost is just north of $21.8 million, with $10.8 million of that figured coming from the $34.8 million in premium and the remainder covered by funding already allocated to the schools as the result of the bond, the sale of the current Ferguson building, and various grants and public-private partnerships.

The next regular meeting of the TSD Board of Education will be held on Feb. 6 at the district office building in south Loveland.

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