Meeker High School demolition and abatement in progress; school district recipient of more than $8 million in grant funds

MEEKER | Those who have been by the high school in the past few days know that construction has started in earnest. Demolition on the south side of the building is underway and will be followed by foundation work in the coming months. Asbestos and mercury abatement continues on the north end of the building and is planned for completion by August 1, 2019.  The congested high school campus will have an impact on all areas of the school district during the 2019-2020 school year. The school district will endeavor to communicate these impacts with community. Community members are encouraged to contact me should they have any questions.

Initial phases of the design for a new transportation facility are also underway. Currently, the school district and our design team are studying a few locations for this facility, including the current location. In the coming months we will be making decisions about the location of the facility and the features of the building which best align with our project budget.

One of the promises made to taxpayers last fall was that the school district would pursue grant funding in an effort to offset the tax burden carried by our community members. To date, we have been awarded a School Safety Disbursement grant for $564,375 and a BEST grant for $7,529,595.31. Our ballot language last fall specifically stated that the bond principal would be reduced by the total amount of state grants received. There are a couple mechanisms by which that can occur, but the important fact for taxpayers is to know that the principal on the bonds will be reduced by $8,093,970.31. Combined with interest payments, the receipt of these grants and the structuring of our bond sales will reduce the tax burden for local residents by nearly $12 million from what was approved by voters last fall. 

There may also be further tax reductions through a DOLA EIAF grant worth more than $800,000. School districts are usually not successful in obtaining these type of DOLA grants. Nevertheless, we applied for this grant as part of the promise to taxpayers that we would pursue grants.

It is also possible that the district can save approximately $3,000,000 more dollars by retiring the bond debt early. Because of our success with grants, we do not need to collect as many taxes to make annual payments. However, we can continue to collect the maximum amount approved by voters, retire the debt early, and save taxpayers the interest payments associated with the last several years of payments. If we are able to do this, the combined tax savings associated with grant awards and reduced interest payments would be nearly $15 million. A decision will be made in December by the school district regarding the specifics of the mill levy needed to make bond payments.

The success that we have experienced thus far with grant awards is attributed to a number of individuals employed by the school district and our design team. Their collective efforts give me another reason to proclaim I am proud to be a Meeker Cowboy!

By Chris Selle | Special to the Herald Times

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