School bond issue heads for ballot

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In a move that surprised no one, the Littleton Public Schools Board of Education voted unanimously and enthusiastically Aug. 29 to place an $80 million bond issue on the November ballot.

“It’s not like we’re asking for fluff,” said Bob Colwell, board president. “It’s things that need to be done for safety and the kids.”

The vote was 4-0, with board member Mary Nichols absent.

Anticipating the outcome, Citizens for Littleton Public Schools registered with the state as an issue committee on July 18. Before the board’s vote, parents Heather Kelly and Amy Kurtz stepped up to lead the charge in the campaign.

“We understand the urgency of the work that needs to be done,” said Kelly, adding that they were representing a very supportive group of parents.

Mary McGlone, former board president and current president of the Littleton Public Schools Foundation, said LPSF’s board voted unanimously to endorse the bond issue.

“There’s a lot of historical support for the work that you’re doing,” she said. “You’re very prudent and efficient with our dollars, and we appreciate that.”

Superintendent Scott Murphy’s position is that the time is right to take advantage of low interest rates for what amounts to refinancing a mortgage — not a tax increase, he stresses. If voters pass the proposed measure, it will keep the amount of property tax they pay at about a total of 57 mills. If not, it will drop to about 55.5 mills — a difference of about $1 a month for each $100,000 of the actual value of the property.

“I haven’t met anyone who didn’t think this was the right thing to do,” said Murphy, counting among them politicians from both parties and the South Metro Realtors Association. John Brackney, president of the South Metro Denver Chamber of Commerce, voiced the chamber’s strong support for the measure on his Facebook page shortly after the vote.

“It isn’t a political issue, it’s an issue of taking care of our community,” said Murphy. “It’s not something to argue about.”

The last time LPS went to the voters was in 2010, when they passed a $12 million mill-levy override, or property-tax increase. That money has maintained the district’s current level of service, despite decreases in state and federal funding.

Bond revenue can legally only be used for capital improvements like building maintenance and infrastructure. The district estimates the actual need at about $102 million, but asking for more than $80 million would have raised taxes.

Colwell stressed that a proposed statewide $1 billion tax increase for education that will likely appear on the same ballot has nothing to do with this local question, and that it does nothing to address capital improvements.

“I think Littleton looks at Littleton,” he said.

Also on the ballot will be the five people who have officially declared bids for seats on the LPS board: Dallas Jones, Kelly Perez, Robert Reichardt, Jack Reutzel and Carrie Warren-Gully.

Six people are running for Littleton City Council, as well. Bruce Beckman and Bruce Stahlman both want to retain their at-large seats but are being challenged by newcomers John Watson and James Dean. Nobody has yet stepped up to challenge Phil Cernanec in District 3, and Randy Stein is the only candidate running to replace the term-limited Jim Taylor.

Council is also asking voters to approve a 3 percent city sales tax on both retail marijuana sales and lodging, along with a measure to change the city’s redistricting from every four years to every 10. Additionally, two citizen initiatives have been certified. The first would require the seven-member council to pass rezoning requests with a supermajority of five councilors, under certain circumstances, and the second would limit council’s use of executive sessions.

Littleton’s municipal election is Nov. 5.