Granby " Citizens worry that E. Grand schools may be losing or wasting millions | SkyHiNews.com

Granby " Citizens worry that E. Grand schools may be losing or wasting millions

Will Bublitz
Sky-Hi Daily News

If what two citizens claimed at Tuesday’s school board meeting is correct, the East Grand School District is losing millions of dollars that should be in its coffers.

During the “Opportunity for Audience” phase allowed in its agenda, the board was told by Charles McConnell, the owner of McConnell Printing Co. of Winter Park, that “millions” were being lost in money-in-lieu-of-lands payments because of faulty calculations by the Grand County government.

McConnell explained that on his own initiative he had been researching the subject and discovered that “enormous amounts of money were being lost” to the district. He cited examples of multimillion dollar subdivision developments that had paid only a few thousand dollars in these impact fees.

In response, Superintendent Robb Rankin explained he had been working more closely with county government officials on those calculations. Under state law, counties and municipalities are allowed to require developers to pay money-in-lieu-of-lands payments for the impact on a school district’s enrollment by the construction of subdivisions.

Rankin also pointed out Grand County was one of the few counties in the region to adopt the money-in-lieu-of-lands payments. He said counties like Summit and Routt do not collect any of these impact fees for their school districts and Eagle County has a $50,000 annual cap on payments by developers to its school district.

McConnell said he was “offering his services to review the numbers” of the county’s calculations on subdivision developments. School Board President Tom Sifers commended McConnell for his “dedication to our schools.”

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The other citizen claiming the district is losing “millions” was Brian Dornbusch, who objected to the amount of money being paid for its facilities projects planned in 2008.

Those projects got the go-ahead in last November’s election when voters approved an $18.2 million bond issue. The district has chosen the Neenan Company of Fort Collins as the main contract for this year’s projects.

Saying he had been “in construction for years,” Dornbusch said the district was paying $263 per square foot of construction while school projects in the Denver area were paying only $150 per square foot. He said he had “priced out” the district’s facilities projects at only $13 million instead of the $18.2 million asked by Neenan.

Dornbusch said that “as a taxpayer, he felt it was his responsibility” to raise the issue. His purpose, he said, is to ensure that the district “got as much bang for its buck” as it could.

Replying to Dornbusch’s claims, Rankin said the district’s bond projects were a combination of new construction and remodeling. The $18.2 million price tag by the Neenan Company included all architectural design and construction costs, plus a built-in contingency fund.

Rankin expressed confidence in Neenan after that company brought in the district’s 2004 facilities projects “on time and under budget.” He said Neenan gives a “guaranteed price” for its projects unlike the contractors who handled its 1997 facilities projects that went more than $4 million over budget.

Rankin also pointed out the 2008 projects were once again being overseen by Todd Ficken who was the district’s “owner’s representative” for the 2004 projects. He said part of Ficken’s job is to ensure “what costs were reasonable and what are unreasonable.”

To conclude the discussion, Rankin offered to sit down with Dornbusch to “go over the numbers” concerning the 2008 facilities projects.

In a related matter, Rankin reported the $802,673 in change orders for this year’s facilities projects have been reduced to $756,657. The board voted to approve the updated charge orders, which are being paid for out of the contingency fund built into the $18.2 million bond.

In other business Tuesday, Rankin said planning for the staffing of Grand Lake Elementary is under way.

One of the biggest changes, Rankin said, will be related to the Grand Lake principal’s position with the retirement after 13 years of Principal Terri Sidell at the end of this school year. He said the district was looking at changing it to a half-time principal/half-time Title 1 reading instructor position.

Rankin also reported that Grand Lake Elementary’s enrollment projects are up with the school anticipating at least 80 students next fall. Current plans are to have separate teachers for each grade. This is good news after enrollment at that school dropped significantly over the past few years, forcing some multi-grade classrooms to be used.

Also, next year’s Grand Lake Elementary fifth grade class will remain at the school instead of being transferred to East Grand Middle School as this school year’s fifth graders were. Rankin said next year’s fifth grade class is expected to have 16 students.

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