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Durango School District considers mill levy request

Added funds could bolster career trades programs
9-R administration building

Voters could be asked to commit more money to curriculum aimed at career trades, such as culinary arts, industrial arts and business programs, in Durango School District 9-R schools.

The timing of when the district will go to voters has not been set, but the vote would be either in November or in November 2020.

In January, the school district examined asking voters for between $75 million to $85 million to improve building maintenance, fix a backlog in building repairs and upgrade school security measures.

On Tuesday, in a work session, board members heard about the additional possibility to include a request for more funds for career trades when the district goes before voters with a bond extension request.

Deputy Superintendent Andy Burns said additional outreach is needed to the business community to generate support for any eventual bond request.

As part of the outreach to the business community, Superintendent Dan Snowberger said a dinner prepared by Durango High School culinary arts students is planned for business leaders March 14 at DHS.

Burns said building relations with the business community could also aid in development of a more extensive internship program for students.

If additional funds are sought to improve career trades programs, Snowberger suggested more time would be needed to work with the community – both to build support for the bond and to determine what programs are desired by the business community. He suggested seeking a vote in November 2020 if it included a request to increase funds for career trade programs.

More in-depth discussions also will be held with business leaders to determine their views on what industries are looking at expanding in or locating to Durango and the skill sets they would be looking for from graduating high school students.

Previously, the board has discussed seeking between $75 million and $85 million for building needs.

Dan O’Connell of RBC Capital Markets, a bond underwriting firm and financial advising firm used by 9-R, has estimated issuing bonds for $85 million would require a slight increase in the mill levy. O’Connell estimated it would require a tax increase of about 80 cents per month for the owner of a $400,000 home in the school district.

Any election, Snowberger said, could be complicated by funding changes for public schools made by the Colorado General Assembly.

He noted one proposal before the Legislature, to require a single fixed mill levy for all school districts across the state, would be particularly disruptive for 9-R’s current revenue structure and particularly painful to local taxpayers.

If a single, fixed mill levy is required for all school districts across the state, it would require an increase of more than 100 percent of 9-R’s current mill levy of 6.6 for the general fund.

The district is currently among districts receiving the most state support for its budget. Snowberger said state funds account for about 70 percent of district revenues, and local funds, principally property tax revenues, contribute about 30 percent of revenues.

A mill levy is the tax rate assessed against the assessed value of property. One mill is equal to one dollar on $1,000 of assessed property value.

parmijo@durangoherald.com

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