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Year after year, members of the Douglas County School District's Long Range Planning Committee have come to the school board with a bleak message: The district's buildings are deteriorating with time, and the punch list of needed work is growing longer and increasingly urgent.
DCSD has $275 million in unfunded capital needs over the next five years, according to the committee, a number that grows by $35 million each year they're not addressed.Though all of the district's buildings meet codes and are safe, many of the potential problems could affect students' school day.
“If you look at the Master Capital Plan there are $25 million in issues that could interrupt the educational program,” DCSD planning director Rich Cosgrove said. “If a boiler goes down in the winter, if a chiller goes down in the summer, if we have a major roof failure, it will impact our students.”
Issues presented in the Long Range Planning Committee's 2014-15 Capital Master Plan include aging buses, boilers and roofs; outdated technology; cracked parking lots; unraveling carpet; safety and security needs; and new construction prompted by near-capacity schools.
The committee is hosting a series of meetings this winter to inform the public about those needs and get feedback about ways to meet them, including funding strategies used in the past and potential future methods.
“We want to invite and welcome the public to see and hear what the capital needs of the district are,” board president Kevin Larsen said. “This is a good way to engage the community, to look at the challenges and the opportunities ahead. Ultimately after these meetings, we will see if there is a recommendation or what the community feels is the best way to address the need of the district.”
School staff proposed in 2014 a way to address the issues without raising taxes by issuing general obligation bonds. Without such action, taxpayers will by 2016 begin to see a decrease in their annual tax obligation to the schools.
But the school board voted not to participate in the fall election, citing concerns with the state's school funding formula, which they believe already puts an unfair burden on Douglas County taxpayers.
DCSD budget director Scott Smith said many people don't realize the funding challenges DCSD faces and the resulting impact on capital needs.
“We are the one of the lowest-funded districts on the Front Range,” he said. “Often, people don't realize that like all districts, we are only funded for operating needs, which largely go to salaries and benefits. The Colorado School Finance Act does not provide funding for capital needs.”
Funding capital improvements through a mill levy override or bond would require voter approval.
DCSD still could put a question to continue the current tax rate on the November 2015 ballot.
“We have no dedicated funding right now to do capital work,” Cosgrove said. “We have been meeting some of our most urgent capital needs out of our operating dollars and out of some of our other funding strategies that we talk about in the presentation.”
Current funding doesn't address future needs. Forecasts suggest the district will double in size by 2040 to about 118,000 students.
Upcoming meetings to let community members know about the district's capital needs follow:
Sagewood Middle School, 4725 Fox Sparrow Road, Parker, 5 p.m.
Highlands Ranch High School, 9375 Cresthill Lane, Highlands Ranch, 7 p.m.
Cimarron Middle School, 12130 Canterberry Parkway, Parker, 5 p.m.
Castle View High School, 5254 North Meadows Drive, Castle Rock, 7 p.m.
Sierra Middle School, 6651 E. Pine Lane, Parker, 5 p.m.
Mesa Middle School, 365 Mitchell St., Castle Rock, 5 p.m.
Legend High School, 22219 Hilltop Road, Parker, 7 p.m.
Ranch View Middle School, 1731 Wildcat Reserve Parkway, Highlands Ranch, 5 p.m.
Cresthill Middle School, 9195 Cresthill Lane, Highlands Ranch, 5 p.m.
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