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Montezuma-Cortez school district creates survey about potential bond and mill levy override

The survey shared that Kemper Elementary School was built in 1957. (Journal file photo)
Bond would be used to build an elementary school if grant is acquired

The Montezuma-Cortez RE-1 school district on Thursday started a survey to gauge the interest in potential ballot measures to raise teacher and paraprofessional salaries and to fund elementary and preschool buildings.

The survey is limited to district residents and takes about 12 minutes to complete. An independent company is running the survey.

The school buildings bond and BEST grant both would need approval for the new tax – about $156 per household per year – to take effect.

According to board meeting discussions between the school board and Superintendent Tom Burris, the money would go toward building a school to house an estimated 900 elementary students in the district, from Kemper and Mesa elementaries and from Beech Street Preschool. Now, about 890 students attend the schools.

The BEST grant requires the district to match the amount of its award, per information in the survey. The ballot measure would allow the district to increase its debt by $70 million.

The survey says that a new school would be more cost-effective than repairing the old schools.

Mesa was built in 1960 and is now 64 years old.

“The building is in dire need of updates, including the plumbing, and heating which has the original galvanized steel piping. Many of the pipes and electrical are all retrofitted, and the electrical system will need an overhaul to be able to use modern technology,” the survey said.

Kemper was built in 1957. It also need new plumbing and heating and updates to its electrical system.

If the ballot measure fails, the district would “face large economic decisions on how to fix not only the plumbing, but also the electrical and piping throughout both building to make a safe and secure learning environment for students and staff.”

The district added that Kemper and Mesa struggle to keep appropriate temperatures in summer in winter. The heaters in the schools are more than 50 years old.

Beech Street Preschool is housed in a church that was built in the 1950s and converted into the preschool in the 1980s. The survey says there are concerns about lead and iron in the water. Electrical capacity was another concern cited.

The new school would have separate learning and play areas for elementary and preschool students, and would provide a safer student pickup area.

If the 3.9 mill levy override for salaries passes, the teacher base pay would rise by $10,000 per year, and paraprofessional salaries would rise by $3,000 per year, affecting 205 teachers and 70 paraprofessionals.

Teacher salaries would then approach the market average of $50,000 per year, which would be just below Durango ($51,500) and Shiprock ($54,000). Right now, the RE-1 school district is tied with the Mancos School District at $40,000 per year.

If voters approved the salaries measure, property taxes would rise by $95 per household, per year.

The survey starts by asking participants if they have a favorable or unfavorable opinion of the school district and how the school district is doing educating students, as well as other questions about the district’s fiscal responsibility and how they are spending tax money.

Then, the survey gave details of what was being asked in the potential bond measure and mill levy override and asks respondents if they would vote for the measures, if they are put on the ballot in November.

The survey can be accessed online at https://bit.ly/3KRJgYP.

Questions may be directed to school board secretary Debra Ramsey at deb.ramsey@cortez.k12.co.us or by calling (970) 564-4187.