Thompson School Board approves ballot language for November vote
By Dan Karpiel
At the most recent meeting of the Thompson School District Board of Education, held Wednesday night in Loveland, the board unanimously approved language for a pair of ballot measures that will ask voters for a tax increase in November’s election. The approved official ballot language is for a $13.8 million mill levy override and $149 million dollar bond measure.
According to the district, if approved, the measures would increase taxes a total of $295.22 per year for a home in Larimer County valued at $350,000; $191.52 for the mill levy override and $103.70 for the bond.
If one or both measures are approved by voters the board said there will be citizen oversight committees that will oversee how the money is spent. Concerns among residents of the district about how the funds were to be spent was one of the reasons given for why similar measures did not pass in the 2016 election. Thus the board is making an effort through the citizen audit committees to be as transparent as possible.
“I just want to point out that there will be monitoring of the bond by a citizens’ oversight committee. We will make sure we have citizens who are not connected to the district taking a look at how every penny is spent from the bond,” said Pam Howard, vice president of the board. “We’re going to have a lot of accountability and a lot of transparency.”
For the $13.8 million mill levy the proposal is to use the funds for four distinct purposes: to maintain the current class sizes and teacher-student ratio, increase the compensation for faculty and staff to attract and retain high-quality employees, update textbooks, curriculum materials, technology resources and instructional programs, and increase and upgrade student security in school buildings, which includes expanding the student resource officer program.
In recent years the district has been losing teachers and staff to other districts nearby, such as; Poudre, Windsor and St. Vrain, among others, as the compensation rates are higher in those districts. The board hopes by raising pay Thompson will be able to attract and a retain high-quality employees.
“Our teachers just need an opportunity to get caught up, just like we need to get caught up with the buildings,” said board member Barbara Kruse on the mill-levy override. Board member Marc Seter added, “When you look at the neighboring districts and you compare where our district is compared to our neighboring districts this is a no-brainer.”
For the $149 million bond, the plan is 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. There has been a nine-year backlog of maintenance needs at schools across the district and, if the bond is approved, the district will be able to catch up on these needs.
“This bond ballot initiative is the result of a lot of hard work from a lot of different groups and citizens. The master-plan committee spent countless hours, probably hundreds of hours, putting together the needs for the bond,” Howard said.
As Seter explained, “I read about a couple of districts on the East Coast that were in a similar situation to ours, did not pass a bond, did not do the maintenance, and they ended up selling off some buildings. In the long term, if we take care of our buildings, if we take care of that deferred maintenance, we’re going to spend a lot less money in the long-term. If we don’t, things are going to get very, very expensive very quickly; a perfect example would be when you have to buy a brand new building.”
The board announced a charitable donation of $7,750 that was recently given to the Berthoud High School boys and girls golf teams from the Berthoud Lions Club for new uniforms and equipment.
The next meeting of the board is scheduled for Sept. 5. Elementary students as well as incoming sixth- and ninth-graders will report for the first day of school on Monday, Aug. 21, and the rest of the students will report the following day. Ballots will begin being mailed on Oct. 15, and Nov. 6 is the date of the 2018 election.
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