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Crumbling down

District 11 bond returns two years after voters turned down request



3F: District 11 bond

Aging facilities in Colorado Springs oldest and largest school district will continue a dangerous slide into disrepair if district voters dont approve new funding this November, bond advocates say.

The bond proposal, calling for almost $132 million in spending, comes two years after voters narrowly rejected a similar $97 million bond proposal. The school district reports that almost one-third of its buildings are in poor condition and need substantial repairs and that the average building age is 42 years.

"If these buildings deteriorate, property values will also deteriorate," said Mary Ellen McNally, chairwoman of Friends of District 11, a group organizing in favor of the tax. For the bond to pass, advocates must convince district residents who don't have children in the school system to go along.

Ballot item 3F would increase property taxes to fund repairs, the creation of two new elementary schools and the expansion of Doherty High School. Ballot item 3G would override a property tax limit voters imposed on the district in 2000.

An average homeowner, with property valued at $165,000, would be charged an additional $53 a year, or an extra 10 percent in school district taxes. Voters last increased property taxes for the district in 2000, when they approved a $27 million annual increase for capital projects to be phased in over eight years.

But tax increase critics, such as Douglas Bruce, claim both the bond and the property tax increase defy taxpayer wishes. "Voters generously approved a huge property tax increase for D-11 in 2000 in exchange for specific limits on future property tax rates," Bruce wrote in comments opposing the ballot referendums. "Now, D-11 wants to keep the money, but bust the limits."

Bond advocate McNally blames the TABOR amendment in part for the district's inability to maintain itself. "Because of TABOR limits we'll just have more of the same," she said. "The buildings will continue to deteriorate."

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