Y-1 picks Neenan for master plan; discusses priorities for Am 73 funds
Yuma School District-1 is hiring The Neenan Company to help create a master plan, and guide the district through the application process for a BEST Grant for the proposed renovation/expansion project at the Yuma High School campus.
The Y-1 Board of Education unanimously approved going with Neenan during a brief special meeting, which was preceded by a 90-minute workshop last Wednesday evening, September 5.
Yuma-1 had proposals for a master plan, which is required as part of a BEST Grant application, from Neenan and CTA, which worked with the district during the 2016 bond issue campaign for the same project, which was narrowly defeated.
The district earlier this year decided to pursue a BEST Grant to cover approximately half of the proposed project. The grant presentations will be made early next year, with the winning proposals announced later in 2019. If successful, the district then will go to the voters in November 2019 for a bond issue to raise the funds for the remaining balance of the project’s costs.
CTA comes from the design/bid process in which the architect and the general contractor are separate firms. Neenan comes from the design/build process, in which the architect and general contractor are under one roof.
For now, though, the district mainly was focused on getting a master plan done and prepare for the BEST Grant application and presentation.
Board members noted during last week’s workshop that Neenan has done several master plans for school districts in relation to Best Grants. They also referenced the high success rate for Neenan in helping school district’s apply for BEST Grant funds.
Board member Duane Brown said that, at least according to the information he found through internet searches, design/build tends to be cheaper and faster than going the design/bid route.
Board president Dan Ross said at first he was apprehensive about Neenan, but is more comfortable with the firm after representatives visited with the board at its August meeting.
Superintendent Diann Chrisman said CTA has done a good job doing what the district has asked, but Neenan brought up a lot of issues that she and board members had not even thought about.
Ross noted that even if the BEST Grant and/or bond issue vote do not go through, the district at least will still have a master plan to help guide it into the future. The master plan will entail the full district, not just the high school.
Neenan’s contract is for $43,500 for the Master Plan and to help the district through the Best Grant process. It was noted Yuma-1 probably will gave to go into reserves for the funds.
The Yuma School District-1 Board of Education and Superintendent Dianna Chrisman debated on how to present potential uses of new funds it would receive if Amendment 73 is passed by voters in November.
The debate came last Wednesday, September 5, during a board workshop at the district office on the edge of downtown Yuma.
Amendment 73 is being pushed by an organization named Great Schools, Thriving Communities. If passed, it would generate an estimated $1.6 billion annually for education in Colorado. Yuma-1 is expected to receive $1.5 million annually.
The revenue would come from an income tax increase for the top 8 percent of tax filers in Colorado, those with a taxable income above $150,000. The proposed amendment to the Colorado Constitution also would increase the tax on C-corporations by 1.37 percent. That reportedly would move Colorado from the third to the ninth lowest rate of the 44 states that impose a corporate tax.
In regards to property tax, it freezes the residential assessment rate, and reduces the nonresidential assessment rate. Proponents state it will provide tax relief for Coloradans who have shouldered a large portion of the local share of school funding — families, businesses, farmers and ranchers. One hundred percent of Colorado property owners would receive a decrease in property tax assessment from the current rate, and 92 percent of taxpayers will see no increase in personal income tax, according to supporters.
Amendment 73 also dictates that school districts will have total local control over how to spend the new funds.
Chrisman said last Wednesday that people will be asking how Yuma-1 plans to spend the new $1.5 million per year if Amendment 73 was to pass, thus the discussion last Wednesday. The superintendent noted six areas of focus over the past three years — continually improving education, attracting and retaining quality staff, finances and transparency, facilities management, providing comprehensive student support services, and more opportunities for students through co-curricular activities.
Board member Kim Langely said she would like to be careful in regards to giving out percentages or dollar amounts, i.e. 50 percent of the new funds going to salary and benefits, just in case it does not work out that way. She noted that budgets tend to change due to various circumstances. She said she was fine with the district stating what areas of focus would be getting some of the new money, but not specific percentages.
Chrisman noted that 78 percent of the district’s expenditures already go to salary and benefits. “That’s the biggest part of our budget, salary and benefits,” she said, adding that she keeps hearing about Yuma-1 wanting to stay competitive in that regard.
Board president Dan Ross said he sees a lot of needs besides salaries, so was hesitant to put a percentage on it.
Board member Duane Brown asked if the district could use a range, instead of a specific percentage. Board member Lindsay Galles said a range would be better than using percentages.
Chrisman said the workshop was meant to just start the conversation, so the district could have something to present to the public before the election. (Mail ballots will be out next month.) She and the board members agreed that the overall goals presented Wednesday night to the board do capture the main themes for the district. Board member Thomas Holtorf said it is a good guidance piece.
“The goals are consistent with what we have discussed,” he said.
Ross referred to the master plan that the district is having done as part of its BEST Grant application, which also was discussed during the workshop. He said the master plan will give the board and district a better idea of where the needs are.
Holtorf and Langely said they support listing priorities but not percentages, when Brown asked what board members should tell the public.
Galles added: “I’m hesitant to put numbers to it because if we don’t follow through, we’re the bad guys and we would deserve to be the bad guys.”
The issue again will be on the agenda for the board’s regular monthly meeting on Monday, September 17.