TSD hosts Thompson Reinvented forums to educate residents on possible ballot issues

By John Gardner
The Surveyor

Growth is a hot topic around Berthoud. According to a Thompson School District Master Plan Committee draft report called Thompson Reinvented, the district estimates as many as 7,426 new students in the next 10-20 years will enter the school district. The district’s master plan committee has developed the draft master plan over the past 18 months, detailing projects that would proactively get ahead of the anticipated growth.

Read the complete Thompson Reinvented plan here.

View the Thompson Reinvented presentation here.

Thompson School District (TSD) staff and eight master plan committee members presented information to a small group of Berthoud residents at a Thompson Reinvented forum on Wednesday, April 13, at Berthoud High School (BHS). The purpose of the forum was to educate residents and gather feedback on the draft master plan that details a $300 million bond proposal that would pay for a host of projects to help meet the anticipated growing student population and a mill-levy override that would essentially restore 5.2 mills of the 2007 school tax rates that would generate over $8 million to serve annual maintenance needs.

“This is not a decided plan that we are here to market to you,” Dan Maas, TSD chief executive officer, told those in attendance. “This is the work of a master plan committee that has put together a number of ideas to try and problem-solve a number of issues that we’ll go over.”

The forum was the first of five the district is hosting throughout April to familiarize residents of the plan, three more of which will be held over the next two weeks.

“What we’re trying to do is touch on a couple of the issues that the board is grappling with to give you some time to engage in the master planning process with committee members and then give your feedback,” Maas said.

“What we are doing for the next two weeks is gathering community input to help inform the board on what the community wants to see in terms of initiatives that could potentially become bond or mill-levy ballot items,” Maas explained.

Overall growth expected for the Berthoud area of the district is estimated to be around 4,700 housing units, bringing in an estimated 1,700 new students to Berthoud schools in the next 10-20 years.

The master plan committee determined a series of capital improvement projects that would meet the growth demands and help fund maintenance projects at current facilities.

Berthoud-specific capital improvement projects of phase one of the facilities master plan includes adding a wing to the north side of Berthoud Elementary School for five additional classrooms. The school, built in 1962, is currently over capacity and cannot accommodate any more students. The cost estimate for this project is between $2.6 million and $2.9 million, according to the report. The expansion would add classrooms, replicating the existing classrooms in the building that would increase the service level by 125 students; upping capacity from 480 to 605 students.

Turner Middle School would be reconfigured by moving the school’s main entrance from the south to the building’s north side, converting the current office space into classrooms and collaboration spaces while enhancing overall building security. The project calls for added STEM-capable facilities with added wiring, electrical systems and other infrastructure; additional art space; project-based learning classroom design emphasis; and relocation of the school’s bus loop to route buses away from the student drop-off area. The project would add capacity of 150 students at an estimated cost of between $3.7 million and $4.3 million.

Enhancements at BHS include construction of a pool facility where the old tennis courts are and a future STEM-capable wing that would cost between an estimated $37 million and $40.5 million. Phase-one costs estimated are between $13.2 million and $14.8 million for just the planning and pool addition. Phase two would add a STEM-capable wing at a later date. The second-phase project also includes creating a new plaza between the school and Max Marr Stadium, moving some of the current ball fields north and expanding the parking area.

Additional Thompson Reinvented phase-one projects include:

– Construction of a new Loveland High School (LHS) complete with athletic field that would open as a middle/senior high school accommodating students from grades 6-12. The facility would eventually become a 9-12 grade school accommodating 2,500 students.

– Reform the current LHS into a new and expanded K-8 campus for 1,500 students.

– Enhance Thompson Valley High School (TVHS) with a STEM wing and a new gym.

– Enhance Bill Reed Middle School into a K-8 campus to accommodate 900 students.

– Build a new K-8 school east of Interstate 25 and north of State Highway 402 in Loveland.

Compounding the district’s funding issue is $72 million in deferred maintenance costs at schools, that includes things such as a roof replacement at BHS. That project will occur this summer at the cost of $600,000, with $270,000 coming in from a state grant and the balance coming from the district’s reserve funds. However, those remaining maintenance projects aren’t going away and more maintenance issues will continue to accumulate.

According to the report, modernization and building repairs, buses and technology have been on hold since 2010 in hopes the state’s finances would recover. The state budget shows no signs of erasing the $834 million negative factor, and any hopes of restored funds for capital purposes are bleak, the report reads.

Ultimately the district hopes to gather input to provide direction to the board in order to determine how to proceed on a possible bond and mill-levy override for this fall’s ballot. The draft master plan offers a mill-levy override option that would essentially restore 5.2 mills of the 2007 school tax rates that would generate over $8 million to serve annual maintenance needs. This mill-levy override would be intended for capital needs such as facilities maintenance and repairs, bus replacements and computer upgrades.

The $300 million proposed bond issue, to be paid back over 25 years, would pay for construction of the aforementioned construction projects. Broken down, the costs would be about $7 a month per $100,000 home value for the mill-levy override. So a $300,000 home in Berthoud could expect a property tax increase of about $21 per month, according to Dan Maas. The proposed bond would cost the average homeowner less than $14 additional per month, according to the report.

The plan is to get community feedback in order for the board to make a decision to put an initiative on the ballot if they choose to this fall by the July 28 deadline.

The locations of the future forums will be Coyote Ridge Elementary School on April 19, TVHS auditorium on April 21, and Mountain View High School auditorium on April 27. All forums are scheduled for 5:30-7 p.m.