Re-2 gives the go-ahead on bond program
RIFLE – The Garfield School District Re-2 board voted Tuesday night to move forward with a bond program for the November 2006 ballot.The board voted to pursue a bond and mill levy issue in November, providing that it will not cause current property tax rates to increase. “We are in a position where, the program we’re looking at now would not require an increase in property taxes,” Re-2 superintendent Gary Pack said to the board. “I’ve never seen that before.”Pack said with the current rate of assessed valuation growth, the district could bond for $65 million to $75 million with an accompanying mill levy without raising property taxes. Assessed valuation has increased from $186 million in 2000 to $850 million in 2005, due in large part to oil and gas development, which pays 75 percent of the property taxes in Re-2, according to an Re-2 press release. The board will wait until the Garfield County assessor’s office has the latest assessed valuation numbers in August and for more construction pricing to make a final decision on the bond amount.The tentative list of projects to tackle with bond money include a replacement for Roy Moore Elementary School in Silt, a new elementary in Rifle and a new middle school in New Castle. Riverside Middle School in New Castle would be remodeled to be an elementary and there are plans for extensive remodeling at Rifle High School.The facilities needs committee, a group of community members, teacher and parents that began meeting in October, had suggested a new high school in Rifle. Pack said that project would just be too expensive, especially if the high school is to later be remodeled into a middle school, and it’s not something the district can likely accomplish without raising property taxes.”They started with $230 million worth of construction projects in this district,” said Jay Rickstrew, the board president. “We told them we had to cut that down because the district could only bond for $123 million. They got down to $86 (million) and now we’re looking at $65 million to $75 million. We’ve trimmed and we’ve trimmed and now it’s getting difficult to trim anymore.”Rickstrew also said that the projects they’ve highlighted (see breakout) address the immediate needs of the district.Re-2 has grown by more than 10 percent since 2001 and will place portable classrooms at Wamsley, Highland and Kathryn Senor elementary schools along with Rifle Middle School next year, said Craig Jay, director of maintenance.”With the bond in 2001, we had to catch up,” Pack said. “This district hadn’t built a new facility in a decade, except for Kathryn Senor. Now we’re growing.”An independent group paid for a scientific study, which found that 95 percent of the people in the district believe growth is inevitable and most of them feel good about the growth. The study also showed that a combination bond and mill levy project has initial support from about 53 percent of the population.”We’ve been batting this around for a long time,” Rickstrew said. “I think it’s time for us to come to the line.”
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UPDATE: Both westbound lanes and one eastbound lane of Interstate 70, according to a 12:20 a.m. update from Garfield County.