It was close, but Steamboat voters support school ballot measures
STEAMBOAT SPRINGS — By the narrowest of margins, voters passed Referendum 4C, a $79.5 million bond issue to build a new school and upgrade existing Steamboat Springs School District campuses, and Referendum 4B, an accompanying operational mill levy.
Just 69 more voters cast their vote in favor of 4C than against it, while 113 more votes were cast in favor of 4B. In total, 3,580 voted in favor of 4B and 3,467 voted against it, and 4C earned 3,552 “yes” votes compared to 3,483 “no” votes.
Even the margin of victory was narrow, 4B and 4C were not close enough to trigger an automatic recount. The ballot verification process could result in a recount, but only if all recounted votes were “no” votes, according to Routt County Clerk Kim Bonner.
The $79.5 million bond will fund the building a new pre-K through eighth-grade school on the district’s 70-acre property in Steamboat II. Of that total, $27 million is designated for repairs, renovations and upgrades at all six of the district’s buildings.
Those projects include more than 30,000 square feet of total additions at five schools. The bond funds $5.3 million for additions at Soda Creek Elementary School, $4.3 million in projects at Strawberry Park Elementary School, $4.1 at North Routt Community Charter School, $5.8 million at Steamboat Springs Middle School, $6 million at Steamboat Springs High School and $1.5 million at Yampa Valley High School
The cost of the new school was estimated at $52.5 million, which includes site work, artificial turf play fields, new utilities and infrastructure.
The tax impact, per $500,000 of actual real estate value, will raise residential property taxes by $17.01 a month and commercial taxes by $70.78 per month.
Geoff Petis, who led the Yes to Education advocacy group, commended his team for going door to door to “change hearts and minds.”
In 2015, 79% of voters said “no” to a $92 million bond to build a new high school. This time around, Petis said he felt the support was diverse.
“Not just teacher support but support from all age levels and occupations,” Petis said. “To see that is encouraging.”
“It’s incredible,” said Steamboat Springs School District Superintendent Brad Meeks, as the final results came out. “It’s four years in the making — from 2015 to today and trying to learn from 2015 . . . On behalf of the district, I’m extremely thankful to the community for stepping up and attending forums and asking questions and helping us create a better plan.”
“It makes those four years all worth it,” said retiring Steamboat Springs School Board member Margie Huron. “I could not have worked for a better group of people. They are so passionate and so dedicated.”
School board member Katy Lee fought back tears.
“I’m so happy the community ended up supporting such an important piece of the puzzle of keeping our school performing excellently,” Lee said.
4A gets wide support
Ballot measure 4A, which funds teacher and staff salaries, passed with a much wider margin, earning 65 percent of the votes.
On average, district employees will see a 6% raise as a result of the vote.
Kelly Latterman, who won a four-term seat on the Steamboat Springs School Board, said the additional funding for salaries as a result of 4A is well deserved and well earned.
“The staff really is the most important aspect of the district,” Latterman said.
“I believe the district is going to be in tremendous shape for many years to come,” Meeks said. “We are excited about what we can offer to our students now and for generations to come.”
Of the new school, Meeks said he is excited by a recent site visit to other newly constructed schools in the region.
“The design of new schools today is so much different than what we see in Steamboat,” he said.
It raises the bar for the whole district, he said. The projects planned for the new schools will alleviate overcrowding issues, and “get people out of closets and into offices — and help improve the climate in all schools. I’m thrilled — and grateful and thankful to the community.”
“It’s what our students and teachers and community needs,” said Jessica Reagon, president of the Steamboat Springs Education Association, of all three ballot measures.
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