Passing the School Bond: A Community Solution to a Local Problem

Article excerpt

The City of Montrose, Colorado, home of the Black Canyon National Monument, is a progressive community located in a valley surrounded by mountains in the southwestern part of Colorado. Montrose was carved from the heritage of the old west, steeped in Indian, mining and cowboy lore, and now with a population of approximately 9,000 is stabilized by industry, tourism, agriculture and ranching.

Montrose, faced with today's modern problems, developed a unique approach to solve one of the community's major concerns. In january 1990, the new mayor of Montrose emphasized that the community had to find a way to better support its educational system. She challenged the city council, county commissioners and school district to work together toward developing new and innovative ways to provide better facilities for the schools.

The school district, standing alone, had not succeeded in having a school bond issue approved by the voters since 1973, and deteriorating and inadequate school facilities were a major concern. Although the school district had won recognition for the quality of the educational experience, the school facilities had deteriorated drastically. Two schools were condemned, two rural schools were closed to save money, and children were taught in churches, trailers and other temporary buildings.

From January to May 1990, with the help of a fact-finding committee organized by the Montrose Rotary Club, the three entities - the city of Montrose, the county and the RE-1J School District - moved forward on that challenge. Public hearings were held to gain insight into the reasons school bonds could not pass in Montrose. It became clear that increased property taxes were perceived as an unfair burden on property owners, especially farmers and business owners, during a time of difficult economic instability.

As a result of these findings, the city, the county and the school district signed a memorandum of understanding, recognizing that school facilities were the number one priority in the Montrose community and appointed two individuals from each jurisdiction to work on a school facilities funding committee.

The committee worked diligently to bring together a package that each entity could work with. In September 1990, the city council approved an intergovernmental agreement with the county and the school district, in order to provide the requisite financing to construct these critically needed school facilities.

The Solution

The solution negotiated through the intergovernmental agreement was to share the financial burden.

City of Montrose - A 1 percent city sales and use tax, pledging the lesser of 1 percent sales and use tax or $1,000,000 annually to the school district for capital needs until $3,000,000 is met; at which time the 1 percent sales and use tax would sunset.

County of Montrose - A 1 percent countywide sales and use tax, allocating 35 percent to the school district's capital needs until $3,000,000 is met; and 65 percent for jail facilities. …

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