Voters OK funds for Bayfield schools

Two measures to increase funding for Bayfield’s schools were approved by voters, unofficial results show. A measure to increase property taxes gained stronger support than another measure to allow the district to issue new debt.

Measure 3A, a 4-mill increase that would bring in $1.2 million for the district in its initial year, found favor with 2,593 voters or 56 percent. Support was more tepid for measure 3B, which would allow the district to issue more debt by extending its repayment period. Of 4,600 votes, 2,350, or 51 percent, were for the measure and 2,250, or 49 percent, were against it.

The results are welcome news for Bayfield School District, Superintendent Troy Zabel said.

“Voters really stepped up to the plate for us in a time that the economy has been pretty tough,” Zabel said. “It shows they have confidence in our schools and are ready for us to move forward in great ways.”

Bayfield decided to ask for the mill-levy increase after years of seeing budgets decline because of reduced state funding. The district has seen its revenue decrease by $1.4 million or about 14 percent since 2008, Zabel said.

Most of the priorities for the funding increases were identified through the district’s strategic planning process, he said.

Ballot measure 3A will increase the mill levy of property owners within the Bayfield School District by about $32 per $100,000 of property value. The money will be used to make staff salaries competitive with those of comparably sized districts, expand and improve programming in the schools, make technology upgrades and possibly add staff positions.

Measure 3B would authorize the district to issue between $8.9 and $11.9 million of new debt while maintaining current property tax rates. The district would do so by extending the repayment period for its outstanding bond debt by 13 years.

That money will be used to renovate old classrooms and construct new ones, build an auditorium, auxiliary gymnasium and varsity-level baseball field at the high school and purchase a 40-acre parcel of land in the middle of town that can be used for future expansion.

Durango School District 9-R and Ignacio School District both passed mill-levy increases during the past two election cycles, which sends a message to Bayfield voters, said Anne Cook, director of Citizens for Bayfield Schools.

“It’s extremely important that Bayfield not fall behind,” she said.