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8/10/2017 The BEST Deal
The Custer County C-1 School District received word earlier this year that it would qualify for a $6 million grant through the Colorado Department of Education’s BEST program – Building Excellent Schools Today – which helps fund capital improvement projects in some of the state’s 179 school districts. In this current grant cycle, Custer is one of 29 school districts selected to share some $200 million in funding. (BEST monies come from Colorado Land Trust revenues, some lottery proceeds, and from the state’s marijuana excise taxes.) Here’s the clincher: the local district will need to come up with approximately $4.7 million in matching funds. Our district plans to use the revenues to upgrade some of the school’s aging infrastructure (like heating and cooling systems), and for overall safety and security issues. Among the advantages would be hefty savings through more efficient utility upgrades. Earlier this week, the C-1 board of education agreed to ask voters in November to approve a $4.7 million bond issue. For a home valued at $100,000, that would result in an annual property tax increase of about $16. Bond issues are notoriously hard-sells in Custer County. But it’s been more than a decade since the last school bond issue. In 2004, voters approved a $1.9 million bond issue to build the new school gymnasium. Earlier, in 2000, voters approved a $3.75 million bond issue for new classrooms and other upgrades. Our student population has decreased in recent years, from a high of around 500 a decade ago to around 400 at the beginning of the 2016 school term. But the county’s population is growing, and will likely continue to do so. In coming weeks, we anticipate the school board to roll-out more details on the proposed project. We urge taxpayers to look carefully at this rare funding opportunity.