The Montezuma-Cortez School District Re-1 board of education discussed the details of a possible bond election campaign during their work session Tuesday night.
The discussion came on the heels of the boards decision on Tuesday, Feb. 16, to apply for a $37 million grant from the Colorado Department of Educations Building Excellent Schools Today program. The grant would fund 46.5 percent of a $79.5 million project which would provide the district with a new high school, two new elementary schools and renovations, repairs and upgrades at Pleasant View Elementary School and Cortez Middle School.
The BEST grant program is a matching program and would require the remaining funds, approximately $42.5 million, be provided by the Re-1 district. A bond election is the most likely way to provide the matching funds.
Tuesdays conversation was facilitated by Paul Hanley and Robyn Moore, representatives from George K. Baum and Co., and investment banking firm out of Denver which was selected to aid the district in pursuing a possible bond.
Robyn and Paul are here to talk to us about pre-bond information and the what fors and whys and ifs about a possible bond, said Re-1 board President Jackie Fisher.
Hanley and Moore laid out the strategy the district would pursue if the board votes to proceed with the bond.
What we want to do is lay out where we are right now and give you some steps for the near future, Moore, a vice president with the company, told the board. You have a really good handle on the project and the components and a very good vision of what it is going to look like. You are in a great spot with a lot of pre work and you are positioned very well.
A bond election campaign would be broken into two segments, Hanley said, the public policy portion would take place this spring and summer and the actual campaign would commence in the fall.
We understand that it is a daunting task to raise your hand and say you want to raise taxes as a board member, Hanley said. We want you to be loaded up with as much information as possible to make that decision.
Hanley laid out the strategy the company will pursue in the local community, noting the process was developed over 15 years ago and has been refined through a lot of wins and a couple of losses.
The effort to disseminate information to the community, as well as gather a number of stakeholders to the table for an open discussion will begin this month. The final decision on whether or not the district will pursue a bond will be made no later than August.
Time is in the districts favor, Hanley said.
We have quite a few months to try and get information out to the public and ask them what they think, he said. The hard part is we have this BEST grant application and it wont be until sometime in July that you find out about that. We are going to make the assumption the grant will be successful and we are moving forward to educate the public.
The districts first task will be to cull a list of 200 to 300 key influencers in the community. Elected officials, civic, business and religious leaders, along with key property owners will be considered as the district identifies community opinion shapers.
From that group you want to bring that down to a civic vetters group, Hanley said. You want about 50 people in this group and they are going to vet your proposal and examine your budget and the plan you presented for the BEST grant and the facilities audit. They are going to look at everything, the good, the bad and the ugly. You want the range, from people that are against it to your biggest proponents. They will then make a final recommendation on whether you proceed with a ballot question or not.
In May, George K. Baum will conduct a mail survey in the community, seeking specific feedback on the districts facilities plan. The non-scientific survey is expected to yield an eight to 17 percent return rate.
Following the mail survey will be a very specific phone poll directed at likely voters. A response rate of 400 voters will yield a margin of error of 4.9 percent. Results of the mail survey and phone poll will be presented to the board in June.
Come July you will have all this information, Hanley said. Youve done the public outreach and the citizen planning committee has come in and said Here is our recommendation. That is when you make the decision to adopt a question in August.
Fisher commented the board has yet to make an official decision on whether or not to put a bond on the November ballot and public input over the next few months will be beneficial.
We have been very deliberate in this process and we understand we may or may not ask for a bond, Fisher said. At this point we are really asking for public feedback. If our community comes back and says Definitely not, we dont pursue it. But we do have concerns with our buildings and we have to deal with it one way or another. If we end up not going after a bond, fine, but we need to identify how we are going to take care of the problem and what our priorities are.
The local school district will be responsible with any costs associated with the public policy portion of the bonding decision, including postage for mailings and the expense of the phone survey Hanley estimated district costs will run close to $25,000.
That assumes we will be targeting 5,963 households, Hanley said. It is also making the assumption the phone poll will cost around $12,500.
If the board decides to place a bond question on the ballot, George K. Baum will cover the costs of the campaign.
Fisher asked for clarification on the financial aspect of the relationship between the district and the investment banking company.
People see that we have a firm coming in and they assume we are paying you, Fisher said. I want it to be clear we are not actually paying you to run the campaign.
Hanley agreed the district will have no financial obligation to the company. If the bond passes, George K. Baum will hold the bonds, which is how the company will be compensated.
We are only paid from a successful bond campaign, Hanley said. (Re-1) doesnt pay us a dime.
Reach Kimberly Benedict at [email protected]