Bond and Mill Levy Override Information

2019 Bond Measure

On July 1, 2019, the District 51 School Board decided to place a $179.5 million bond measure on the Nov. 5, 2019, ballot. The bond measure (4A) proposes the following projects at D51 high schools:

  • Central High School - Eliminate 16 non-secure doors and create a single entrance by connecting all buildings so the entire campus is under one roof, perform asbestos abatement, install fire sprinklers, improve accessibility and traffic flow, and enlarge the cafeteria. (Estimated cost: $32 million)

  • Fruita Monument High School - Create a single main entrance by connecting all buildings on campus under one roof and eliminating 27 non-secure doors; improve accessibility and circulation; and add 18 classrooms to bring ninth-grade back to Fruita Monument High School so that Fruita Middle School and Fruita 8/9 can each become full middle schools. (Estimated cost: $21 million)

  • Grand Junction High School - Rebuild the school on the north side of the current campus and take down the current building, which has 71 entrances, a sinking foundation, and multiple buildings. (Estimated cost: $124 million. This includes $99 million to rebuild the school, plus $25 million to furnish it.)

  • Palisade High School - Eliminate non-secure doors to connect all buildings under one roof, add fire sprinklers, create collaborative spaces, add six classrooms, and improve accessibility. ($12 million)

The work collectively would cost an estimated $189 million. If the bond measure passes for $179.5 million, the remaining $9.5 million would come from a combination of 2017 Bond Measure money that would otherwise be spent on a Grand Junction High School roofing project and currently unallocated bond premiums, interest, and projected savings from the 2017 Bond Measure.

The sole intention of this page is to provide factual information to the public and does not advocate for or against the bond measure on the Nov. 5 ballot. The decision is yours alone to make.

PROS
The proposed projects will make high schools safer Having multiple buildings on one campus means having multiple unlocked doors so students can freely move from one building to the next. It also means there are multiple ways for a person who shouldn’t be in the school to get inside undetected or make contact with students when they're outside during passing periods. If the proposed projects are completed, all four high schools will each have one main entrance and a security vestibule that forces people to check in with the office before staff unlock a door to let them into the rest of the school. It would replace GJHS before it's too late - When construction of GJHS began 64 years ago, it was estimated that the building would last for 75 years. However, the people who made that estimate did not anticipate that the school’s foundation would begin sinking and cause several structural issues, or that it would become unsafe to have several entrance and exit points on campus. As a result, the new estimate is that the school does indeed have zero to five years left before it needs to be replaced.
It would benefit the local economy
- Newer and safer schools help attract new employers and qualified employees - especially those with children - to an area. Plus, more than 90 percent of contractors and subcontractors for 2017 bond measure-funded maintenance and construction work are local, and the district would aim to hire local contractors as much as possible for the 2019 bond measure as well.

CONS
The proposed projects are not free - If passed, the bond measure would increase property taxes within District 51 boundaries by $6.67 per month for a $300,000 home.

Bond measures do not provide a permanent funding source
- Bond measures work like a loan, where buyers purchase bonds and taxpayer dollars gradually pay them off. When the bond dollars are spent, that marks the end of that funding source.

Bond measures cannot be used for operations
- Bond measures must be used for capital costs. They cannot be used for other purposes, such as salary increases or training. 

QUESTIONS YOU MAY HAVE ABOUT...

REPLACING GJHS

Why replace instead of renovate GJHS?

All four high schools will be safest with fewer unlocked doors, all classrooms under one roof, and improved flow and accessibility. However, only GJHS has a sinking foundation that will continue to be a problem. The other three high schools have solid foundations and will get at least a 20-year extension on their useful life from a renovation.

There are schools that were built before then that are still standing - why don’t you maintain your schools better?

We're proud to say 20 of our 41 school buildings are at least 50 years old, with our oldest buildings - Grand River Academy and Fruita Middle School - built way back in 1925 and 1936, respectively, and still going strong. All buildings have been maintained, though with a limited budget during the recession, and that maintenance will keep our other high schools (built in 1960, 1969, and 1992) ship-shape with safety renovations rather than replacement. The board has asked to replace GJHS, however, because of sinking foundation issues that cannot be reversed or stopped.

 

Why will it cost an estimated $124 million to replace Grand Junction High School?

Local contractors estimate a new high school, if built in 2019, would cost $360 per square foot. Inflation tacks on 6-10% for every year after 2019, so the price would be closer to $381.60 per square foot if a bond passes and construction could begin in 2020. At approximately 260,000-square-feet, the new GJHS building would cost an estimated $99.2 million, plus $25 million for soft costs, if construction starts in 2020. 

How does the construction cost for GJHS compare to the new OMMS?

The new Orchard Mesa Middle School, which broke ground in August 2018, cost $340 per square foot to build (340 x 100,000-square-feet = $34 million), plus $6 million for soft costs, such as furniture and technology. The total $124 million GJHS project would cost $80,834.42 per student, based on 2018-19 enrollment at GJHS. With just under a third of the student population of GJHS, the new Orchard Mesa Middle School costs $81,967.21 per student at OMMS.

Why does it cost more to build a high school than an elementary or middle school?

High schools are more expensive than elementary and middle schools because they are bigger and include features other grade levels don’t have, such as an auditorium, a gym and an auxiliary gym, multiple sports fields, science labs, media and technology equipment, and multiple classrooms for all four grades.

 

If a bond does not pass, what will you do to fix Grand Junction High School?

Right now, there are more than $5 million in the 2017 bond measure for Grand Junction High School repairs. While those repairs – including roofing projects, bathroom remodeling, parking lot repairs and tile and carpet replacement – won’t fix everything about GJHS, it will help put a Band-Aid on the school’s problems until more funding can be secured. If the foundation has issues, why rebuild on the same property?

The foundation at GJHS is sinking, so some have rightly wondered if it makes sense to rebuild on nearby soil. Thankfully, there are soil tests and construction practices that will prevent the same issues from happening in the new building. Rebuilding on the same patch of land will eliminate the cost of purchasing new land elsewhere, and keep GJHS centralized.

If a bond does pass, what will happen to the money in the 2017 bond measure reserved for GJHS repairs?

Most of the repairs at GJHS have been delayed until 2020 just in case a bond measure passes this fall. The money will be spent on repairs at the school only if voters do not approve a building replacement this fall. If voters do approve a new GJHS, the money will go toward other capital improvements in D51 schools.

Can the newer parts of Grand Junction High School be repurposed?

Newer parts of GJHS were built in 1963, 1982, 1983, 1998, and 2005. However, all will need to be demolished once a new building is finished in order to fit sports fields, a track, and parking onto the current property.

 

If GJHS was good enough for me, why isn’t it good enough for students today?

A lot has changed over the years – not for the better, when it comes to the condition of GJHS’ building. If you haven’t been by your alma mater lately, please call the school at 254-6900. We would love to give you a tour!


FUNDING

Aren’t property taxes high enough already?

Colorado has the third-lowest property tax rate for single-family housing in the U.S., behind Alabama and Hawaii, according to a 2019 analysis by ATTOM Data Solution. Mesa County’s property tax rate is in the lowest four percent among 1,408 counties analyzed, and the sixth-lowest among counties in the West.

Could marijuana tax revenue pay for a new GJHS if we had shops here?

Tax dollars from recreational marijuana sales go directly to the city, the county, and the state where the store is located - not the local school district. Instead, school districts apply for a construction grant, called a BEST grant (Building Excellent Schools Today), from the state’s share of marijuana tax revenue. Having a local marijuana retailer has not impact on whether a district gets a BEST grant. These grants are extremely competitive and require matching funds - often through a bond measure. District 51 was lucky enough to receive a BEST grant for Orchard Mesa Middle School, but was denied a BEST grant this year for Grand Junction High School.   

Why not just use the budget you already have?

The 2019 bond measure amount is nearly equal to a whole year’s budget for the school district. Even if the district paid for these projects in installments using the existing budget, other items would have to be cut, taking away programs, people, and progress, and it would be a Sisyphean task to catch up to 6-10% annual inflation in construction costs.

More than half of my property tax bill goes to education - why add a bond?

In all, 53.6% of your Mesa County property tax bill goes to District 51 (and zero percent of your sales and use tax). However, it’s not the percentage that factors into the school funding formula, it’s the amount. Colorado school districts rely on funding primarily from a combination of local property taxes and state funds. The state funding formula determines how much money a school district receives each year (per student), and state funds make up for whatever amount local property taxes don’t cover (for most districts, state funding covers more than half of this amount). If property values increase, the state simply backfills less. The only way to really get ahead is with a bond measure or mill levy override, which deliver dollars independently of the state funding formula.

Why do high schools need money - didn’t they get anything from the 2017 bond?

High school maintenance projects account for less than 28% of all projects and purchases in the 2017 Bond Measure. This work, which includes roofing, heating and cooling work, new carpet and tile, and parking lot overlays, will help extend the life of each building, but it will not fix the major foundation issues at GJHS, provide enough room at FMHS for ninth-graders to attend, or make each building safer by creating a single entrance.

How can I trust you with my money?

The district is audited annually, posts financial statements online at d51schools.org, and has received a national excellence in financial reporting award for its budget for 20 consecutive years. All money from the 2017 bond measure and mill levy override has been spent as advertised on the 2017 ballot, with savings, premiums, and money deferred by the BEST grant going to additional construction and maintenance. Every cent can be tracked at bit.ly/d51bond and bit.ly/d51mill.

SAFETY

How will having all parts of campus under one roof make schools safer?

Having multiple buildings means having multiple unlocked doors so students can move from one building to the next. Having one main entrance and a security vestibule that forces people to check in with the office before entering the rest of the school is the safer layout.

 

If we want to improve school safety, why not arm teachers or add SROs?

For insurance purposes, D51 schools have no plans to arm teachers or volunteers. Arming people who are not in uniform may also pose a problem for law enforcement responding to a school incident, as they could not easily tell if an armed teacher is the original shooter or someone trying to bring down a shooter.  

Local law enforcement agencies hire and pay for school resource officers, and we are thrilled that many have added more SRO positions in the last year. It is not easy to recruit just the right person with the right skills, temperament, training, and background to become a school resource officer, so it may be difficult to hire an officer for every D51 school, even if funding were available.

Why is it a problem to have multiple buildings on high school campuses?

All four high schools were built before school shootings became an unfortunately frequent part of American life. Back then, it wasn’t a security concern to have multiple buildings and multiple unlocked doors on a school campus. Now, we know that it is safer to have all classes under one roof and a single main entrance where people have to check in at the front office before entering the building.

Why not add modulars instead of classrooms to give Fruita Monument more room?

It would take several modulars to provide the amount of space needed to bring ninth-graders back to FMHS. More importantly, modulars create more exterior doors for the school, which defeats the purpose of securing all FMHS buildings under one roof.

The bond questions mentions fire sprinklers. Don’t all schools have sprinklers?

Not entirely. While some newer buildings at each high school have sprinklers, the older parts do not. In fact, sprinklers played a part in the decision not to connect newer additions to the main high school buildings in years past because connecting them to the main building would have required a school to put sprinklers throughout the entire building. Fruita Monument High School had sprinklers installed in its main building for the first time in the summer of 2019 thanks to funding from the 2017 Bond Measure. 

What are you doing to make schools safe now?

The existing D51 budget supplies 9 school security officers and a security director, and local law enforcement agencies fund 12 School Resource Officers. The last bond measure helped the district complete its work installing keyless entry lock systems in all schools, and nearly all D51 elementary and middle schools now have security vestibules. The vestibule holds a person inside the front lobby so they cannot enter the rest of the school unless the office staff let them through a locked door. Vestibules are only truly effective if the public has just one entrance to a building.

A new grant this year will add more security cameras, a security office at PHS, 75 radios, and vestibules at East and West middle schools. Due to our practices, D51 has been recognized by the National Institute of Justice as one of the top 24-safest districts among 2,000 surveyed in the U.S. While it's impossible for any district or law enforcement agency to make sure all students make good choices every day, we are confident that we have the right people on the job, doing their best to defuse, prevent, and resolve situations quickly and professionally.

TIMING

Why propose a bond measure now, two years after the last bond measure passed?

The 2017 bond measure has helped many schools get the maintenance, construction, and technology they need to be safe and up-to-date. However, our largest buildings – the four high schools – have larger needs. Waiting any longer to ask for a bond measure to meet these needs would increase the cost by 6-10% each year.

Why put more than $5 million for GJHS repairs in the 2017 bond measure if you knew it needed to be replaced?

The 2017 Bond Measure includes funding for roofing, bathroom remodeling, carpet and tile replacement, parking lot work, and a few other projects to help make GJHS a brighter, better place to be just in case funding is not approved for a new building. If a new building is approved, the money will go toward other capital projects in the district. If a new building is not approved, most of the GJHS projects listed above will take place in 2020. 

 

If you knew the high schools needed more work, why wasn’t this work included in the 2017 bond measure?

The school district had millions of dollars-worth of Priority 1 maintenance needs in 2017, and Orchard Mesa Middle School had been in need of replacement since the district first tried to replace it through a 2008 bond measure, which failed. Knowing that voters had not approved a bond measure since 2004 and that including a replacement high school on the ballot would more than double the cost of the 2017 bond, the School Board placed what they could on the ballot with the hope that voters would approve high school projects at a later date.

Why do you put bond measures on the ballot so frequently?

While it may seem more frequent, a bond measure or mill levy override has only been on four ballots in the last 20 years - two of which were successful. 

LOOKING TO THE FUTURE

How long will these repairs last?

The additions and security features at Central, Fruita Monument, and Palisade High School would extend each school’s life by at least 20 years. A brand new building for GJHS would last even longer.

How will this impact small businesses?

Due to the Gallagher Amendment, commercial properties pay a higher tax rate than residential properties in Colorado. Businesses also pay a high price when they have to recruit out-of-town talent and struggle to convince them to move here after they see the dated, inefficient high schools their children would attend.

How does work on Fruita Monument High School affect middle schools?

If the bond passes, Fruita Monument will add 16 classrooms so that ninth-graders can attend FMHS instead of Fruita 8/9 School. If that happens, Fruita 8/9 School and Fruita Middle School can both turn into middle schools serving grades 6-8.

 

Why not build a fifth high school too?

The Long Range Planning Committee has suggested that the district add a fifth high school to handle anticipated population growth on the west end of the Grand Valley in 6-10 years. Having two new high schools in one bond measure is expensive and more likely to fail (as a proposal for two new high schools did in 2008), and replacing GJHS is a more dire need than adding a fifth high school at this time.

What about elementary schools and middle schools that need improvements?

The Long Range Planning Committee – a group of D51 staff and community members – has made a long-term goal of improving elementary and middle schools in the next 20 years. Meanwhile, several middle and elementary school improvements have taken place thanks to the 2017 bond measure and safety grants.

 

How will you be transparent about this bond if it passes?

Immediately after the election, the district will add page to its website (d51schools.org) that will include information about the bond and track where and how each dollar is being spent on a quarterly basis. The district will also continue to send quarterly bond measure updates to parents, staff, and interested community members until the work is completed; post updates and photos on social media; and present monthly updates at public school board meetings.

Have a question? Email D51 at communicate@d51schools.org.

2017 Bond and Mill Levy Override


2019 Bond Project Status Update by School
05/10/2019
See which bond projects have been started, finished, and are coming next, plus how much of the 2017 Bond Measure funding has been invested in each school as of March 31, 2019.
Read More about 2019 Bond Project Status Update by School
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Bond Bidding Opportunities
10/03/2018
Click here to see bidding information for bond projects.
Read More about Bond Bidding Opportunities
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Bond and Mill Levy Override Financial Transparency
04/18/2018
Click here to see more information on plans for the funds from the bond and mill levy override, and what purchases have been made.
Read More about Bond and Mill Levy Override Financial Transparency
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Bond and Mill Projects and Purchases Timeline
11/29/2017
Construction and maintenance projects funded by the bond measure will begin in 2018.
Read More about Bond and Mill Projects and Purchases Timeline
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2017 Bond and Mill Levy Override Information
11/15/2017
3A & 3B information, and frequently asked questions about school district funding and elections.
Read More about 2017 Bond and Mill Levy Override Information
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