West Grand will ask voters to increase salaries, address maintenance needs | SkyHiNews.com

West Grand will ask voters to increase salaries, address maintenance needs

Citing a struggle to hire quality teachers and the need for critical maintenance repairs, the West Grand Board of Education will ask voters for a tax increase this fall.

The mill levy override would be for $550,000 toward salary increases for teachers and staff along with critical maintenance and repairs. With the current assessed valuation for the district, the mills needed to raise the money would be 4.525.

Such a tax increase would equal $32 per $100,000 of actual residential property and $131 per $100,000 of actual commercial property.

Currently, West Grand School District taxpayers pay 18.4 mills to the district plus 6.9 mills for a bond, which passed in 2006 and will be paid in full by the end of 2026. The district last passed a mill levy override in 1997 for $550,000.

District staff explained to board members that West Grand could be headed toward a “financial cliff” after the district was buoyed by state and federal funding through the COVID-19 pandemic. Staff warned that these revenue sources would not last and that a number of critical repairs have been put off due to financial strain.

Hiring difficulties were also highlighted during the board meeting with the schools struggling to fill teacher and staff positions.

West Grand School District has the 22nd highest cost of living of the 178 school districts in the state according to a 2019 analysis for the Colorado Legislative Council. In 2020, according to the Colorado Department of Education, West Grand teachers made an average salary of $43,086 while the average teacher salary statewide was $58,219.

Board Secretary Jessica Smiley said during the meeting that while she understood the need for more revenue for the district, she questioned whether it was the right time to do so.

“The school district is not the only one in this position,” Smiley said. “I struggle with that. Personally, I feel like I’m kind of taxed out.”

The board approved moving forward with the ballot issue with Smiley dissenting. The resolution for the measure is due by July 23.

Staff added that the ballot measure will go along with board elections, of which five members are up this November.

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