At the tail end of the November ballot, voters living within the boundaries of the Bayfield School District will find Ballot Issue 3B, asking permission to issue bonds worth $27.6 million.
A “Yes” vote would affect all the schools in the district. It would allow the district to build a new elementary school for grades 3-5 and renovate the current elementary school to house primary grades K-2. If money allows, the district also would improve site safety and security at Bayfield Middle School and expand and renovate the existing Administration Building, adding a board room and space for the technology department, now taking up space in Bayfield High School.
“We’ve seen steady growth, particularly in the last 10 years,” said Carol Blatnick, vice president of the district’s board. “More than anything, it’s the price of housing. We get lots of young families with children, and while the parents work in Durango, we get their kiddos.”
As an example, Durango School District 9-R is pitching its tax increase estimate based on an average home price of $400,000. Bayfield is basing its example on an average home price of $280,000, which would add about $200 annually to a homeowner’s property tax bill. That comes out to about $17 per month.
The project will cost $37.2 million, but the district has been awarded a Building Excellent Schools Today grant for $8.63 million in matching funds, 25 percent of the cost. The district will lose the grant if voters do not pass the bond.
A “No” vote would lead to the district being forced to make decisions to purchase additional modular units and begin increasing class sizes.
Almost 20 years ago, the district vacated the old Bayfield Middle School in downtown Bayfield, deeming it unfit for students. But by 2005, the district’s growth was so significant, the 100-year-old building was re-opened for the primary school students. Four modular units accommodate some kindergarten and first-grade classrooms and special-needs students. For special classes – music, computers and art – the gymnasium and cafeteria, students must cross the street to the old West campus, sometimes as often as four times a day.
The move might also help early-childhood education in Bayfield, because the district is considering offering early-childhood education.
“We were full last year, and we’re full this year,” said Blatnick, also executive director for Bayfield Early Childhood Education Programs. “And we only have spots for less than half of the students in that age group. The district’s classes wouldn’t be free, because there’s no state funding for that, but at least it would be available.”
There is no organized opposition to the bond issue, but some voters oppose a tax increase. The Bayfield Chamber of Commerce, Lions Club and Parent Teacher Student Association have all endorsed 3B.
“We couldn’t participate in the League of Women’s forum,” said Amy Lyons, finance director for the district,” because we couldn’t even find someone to represent the opposition for that.”
If all three local tax increases on the ballot pertaining to Bayfield School District residents pass in November – roads and bridges, airport expansion and school bond – property owners of a $280,000 home would see an annual addition to their property taxes of about $480.
“Over the years, Bayfield voters have been very supportive of our schools,” Blatnick said. “I hope they’re supportive on 3B, too.”