Editorial: Small price to pay for Littleton Public Schools repairs

A Colorado Community Media editorial

Posted

The list of needed repairs — and the accompanying price tag — is swelling for a district in which the average school is 50 years old.

Littleton Public Schools needs money to pay for those repairs, and the district is asking voters to say yes to a bond issue on November's ballot. We urge you to do so.

LPS schools are among the finest in the state, boasting the Denver metro area's highest on-time graduation rate at 90 percent. In the 2013 Transitional Colorado Assessment Program tests, the district's students outscored state averages at the proficient and advanced levels in all grades and subjects by 10 to 20 percentage points.

At the same time, the buildings in which LPS' high-achieving students are being educated are not making the grade. That's not a surprise for facilities that range from 32 to 93 years old.

The state's 15th-largest school district, with more than 15,000 students, is looking to raise $80 million to rectify this. Yes, that money would come from taxpayers. But no, it would not come in the form of a tax increase.

How's that possible? The district has taken advantage of lower interest rates and refinanced its loans down to 2.9 percent from 5.2 percent. If the bond issue does not pass, that savings will be passed on to homeowners to a tune of about one dollar a month for every $100,000 of a home's value. The owner of a $300,000 home, for example, could expect to save about $36 a year, perhaps to spend on an extra cup of coffee each month.

If Ballot Question 3B does pass? Homeowners would simply not have that extra few dollars a month. But that money would be put to great use by helping to get school district buildings up to par.

No new facilities would be built. In short, the money would go toward “basic infrastructure in the schools,” LPS Superintendent Scott Murphy told us last week.

Here's just a partial look at what a yes vote would buy for schools throughout district:

• Heating and ventilation systems would be upgraded.

• Failing roofing would be replaced.

• Inefficient lighting would be repaired or replaced, depending on the building.

• Security and fire alarm systems would be improved to meet current codes and standards.

• Power and electrical equipment upgrades would be completed.

• Technology infrastructure would be enhanced.

The bond issue is supported by business groups like the South Metro Denver Chamber of Commerce and the South Metro Denver Board of Realtors, as well as by a litany of politicians, both Republicans and Democrats, from Arapahoe County. They know the value of excellent schools to a community, including to its property values. South Metro Chamber President John Brackney, himself an LPS product, says the main reason his organization supports the bond issue is because of the school district's stellar reputation.

We won't ignore the fact that voters are also being asked to pass a nearly $1 billion measure that will appear on the ballot as Amendment 66. That is a statewide ballot issue that would raise income taxes. If it passes, money would be directed to Littleton Public Schools, but would not be used for the capital improvement projects the local bond issue targets.

LPS has never lost a bond election. With the quality of the district's infrastructure lagging so far behind that of its teachers and students, it be would be unfortunate if this were the first.

Vote yes on Ballot Question 3B.