Ballot issue 5A asks Delta voters to raise taxes for school bus upgrades

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DELTA, Colo. (KKCO News)-- Delta County voters can expect to see Ballot Issue 5A in just a few weeks.

“There’s a huge need for buses. If we don’t transport a lot of our kids to school, they will not come,” says Delta County School District Superintendent, Caryn Gibson.

It asks voters if they would support a mill levy override for the school district, which would increase taxes by about $576,000 starting in 2020.

“There is a concern among the parents that the school district is essentially nickeling and diming themselves to death with keeping these older buses up to the standards that need to be in place for the safety of the students,” says parent Darnell Place-Wise.

The override would look to maintain the county’s bus fleet, as district officials say they are in need of some upgrades. About 15 years ago Delta County School District purchased 49 school buses all at once. Now they have a total of 65 buses. Although they have already been purchasing one to three buses a year, they say that’s not enough to replace the fleet.

“You can see that a lot of our buses are starting to crack because they’re older,” says Gibson.

Years of wear and tear on the bolts has made them outdated. With the safety features that all of the newer buses have nowadays, the height of the seats can make a big difference.

“Students are in compartments; so if there were to be an accident, it holds the students in place, whereas our older buses have the lower seats,” says Gibson.

The district wants to maintain that the buses they have right now are safe, but they want to keep up with the newest technology. The school district says that over half of kids in the district ride the buses every single day.

For those that aren’t looking for an increase in taxes, may not be supportive of the measure.

“I think that they should support it because the taxpayers supported their students when they were going to school. I think it is a cycle that needs to continue,” says Place-Wise.

But some parents in favor say it could make a big difference in the long run.

“This has a sunset of eight years, so it’s not a life sentence. After eight years it goes away. So if we’re honest, transparent and show that these funds are going right where our taxpayers said, if we need additional funds then they should vote for us,” says Gibson.

Delta Country School District does own their own fleet of buses and they say that they want to keep ownership, as it keeps the cost down.

For a rough estimate on taxes, a $200,000 property value could see their taxes increase by about $1.79 a month.

If voters approve, they would be replacing about four to five buses a year. If they have not reached their goal by 2028, the district could go back to the taxpayers to ask for more funding. The superintendent says that if they are unable to get this passed then they will have to squeeze the budget and find the money from other line items.

The school district will be hosting an open house on October 23rd at the bus barn on Crawford Avenue where voters will have a chance to look at the buses for themselves before making a final decision.

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