Guest Column: Meeker School District’s BEST Grant denied; now what?

By Chris Selle

Meeker School District Superintendent

Chris Selle

MEEKER | Meeker School District recently learned that it was not successful in securing a Building Excellent Schools Today (BEST) grant from the State of Colorado. If awarded, the grant would have helped fund a portion of the cost of renovating Meeker High School.

There were 45 school districts who applied for one or more BEST grants, requests totaling about $900 million. Unfortunately, only $447 million was available from the BEST program.

The BEST board indicated that all the projects they reviewed were valid.  They simply do not have enough money to fund all of them.  Additionally, though not eligible for a BEST grant, we also know the facility needs of our bus garage are significant.

Given the condition of our high school, we felt we had a good chance of receiving a grant.

In fact, the facility condition index score for Meeker High School was among the highest of the schools that applied this year. The higher the score, the higher the facility needs.

As we gather feedback from the BEST program, we will consider if we wish to submit another application in next year’s grant cycle.  There are many schools who have only been successful after applying multiple times for a grant. Unfortunately, grant monies are becoming scarcer.

What do we do next? Should the district seek voter approval of a bond measure this fall for the full amount of the proposed renovations to the high school and replacement of the bus garage?

Without assistance from the BEST grant, the size of the bond measure would be about $51.1 million.  Fortunately, the natural gas industry would pay about 86 percent of the new tax, bringing the estimated monthly tax impact down to $3.27 per $100,000 of residential property, $3.80 per 160 acres of hay, and $0.50 per 160 acres of grazing.

The other option the board of education is considering would be to ask voters to approve the required matching funds in advance of applying for a BEST grant next year. This is an approach that other districts have successfully used. The risk with this approach is that there is no guarantee that BEST funds will available next year and that the district would receive a grant. And with construction and borrowing costs increasing, the longer the District waits the more it will cost to renovate the high school and replace the bus garage.  In the meantime, the safety and security concerns with Meeker High School remain.

In the coming weeks, the district will be mailing a public opinion survey districtwide. Your participation in this survey would be greatly appreciated. No decisions will be made regarding pursuing a bond ballot measure until the district gathers additional public input.

If you would like to discuss the proposal in person—or would like me to make a presentation to a local organization to which you belong—I would welcome that opportunity. I can be reached at 970-878-9040 or chris.selle@meeker.k12.co.us.

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