District 27J begins polling on potential bond, mill levy measures for November

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By Crystal Nelson

BRIGHTON — One of the two ballot measures being considered to boost School District 27J’s funding levels is moving forward while prospects for the other have dimmed. 

During the March 20 Quality Schools Initiative Committee meeting, district officials examined proposals for a $150-million bond measure and a $7.5-million mill levy, but ruled out another proposal where the mill levy would increase from 2 mills to 10 mills over a period of time because it would be too difficult to explain to voters. 

A $150-million bond and $7.5-million mid-range mill levy override would cost homeowners an estimated $135 more annually per $100,000 of taxable property.

The $150-million bond measure would include $119,775,000 in new construction, $23,665,000 in renovations and $6.56 million in existing needs. It has something for all areas of the district, and would provide an additional 1,200 seats for high school students, 900 seats for middle school students and 19,005 seats for elementary students. 

New construction would include a $77-million middle-high school to address overcrowding at the district’s current schools; $16.5 million for the district’s 12th elementary school; $17.5 million for the district’s 13th elementary school; $6.7 million to complete Brantner Elementary School; $900,000 for three, two-classroom modular units at Prairie View Middle School; and $900,000 for three, two-classroom modular units at Stuart Middle School. 

Renovations would be made at Overland Trail Middle School, Vikan Middle School, Brighton High School, Brighton Heritage Academy and Eagle Ridge Academy for capital improvements and technology infrastructure. Existing repairs would include capital repairs at all of the district run elementary schools, Prairie View Middle School, Stuart Middle School, Prairie View High School and other district buildings. 

The $7.5 million would be spent on new teachers, improving teacher quality, providing more support for “at-risk” students, put mobile learning devices in the hands of each student, bringing back a gifted and talented coordinator and purchasing new learning materials.

Superintendent Chris Fiedler said staff has been very thoughtful of what to propose based on what they’ve heard from the quality schools group. 

“The bottom line is it still isn’t enough, that’s what’s so hard” he said. 

After deciding to pursue the $150-million bond and $7.5-million mill levy override packages, the QSI Committee has asked School District 27J officials to conduct a poll on both to explore the feasibility of the proposal passing in the November election. The poll will also determine what parts of the proposal they like best and give district officials direction on what the final proposal should look like. 

Fiedler said he is pleased the work moved from the theoretical into the practical application of the funds. He said he’s anxious to get out to the public and conduct the polling and learn what people think about the package.

“We’re looking for positive numbers ... If it comes back and only 40 percent of the people could get behind something like this, it’s pretty obvious the community’s not ready to support the two packages that they’re going to poll on.”

Fiedler said that if the numbers came back unfavorable, the committee and district officials would have to think very hard about whether to pursue the ballot measure at all this fall.

The committee will learn the results of the poll during its next meeting in April and will likely make a recommendation for Fiedler to take back to the Board of Education.