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Colorado's infrastructure is struggling and our children may be the most affected

Posted: 6:07 PM, Jan 30, 2020
Updated: 2020-01-30 21:18:13-05
School classroom

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DENVER — The American Society of Civil Engineers released a voluntary report on Colorado’s state infrastructure, and 2020 barely passed with a C- grade.

“Our infrastructure is in mediocre condition and requires attention,” Peyton Gibson with the American Society of Civil Engineers, said.

Drinking water, hazardous waste, transit, roads, and solid waste all received a C- grade, the report shows.

Perhaps the most shocking aspect of the report is our school infrastructure, which was graded at a D+. The report states school facilities have needs far greater than budgets, which has resulted in a $14-billion funding gap.

“Fourteen billion dollars is obviously a lot of money. On the other hand, we are looking at a $700 million capital improvement program and we educate 10% of the students in the state,” Tim Reed, director of facilities for Jefferson County Schools, said.

Reed said Colorado schools are getting older and more crowded.

Jeffco School's median age is 50 years old.

“We have some this year that are turning 60 years old and even some that are 70 years old,” Reed said.

Two years ago, voters approved a bond to improve infrastructure at Jeffco schools. It had been about 16 years since such a bond was passed.

“Those renovations can include not only interior finishes but mechanical issues, plumbing, electrical upgrades, security, technology,” Reed said.

Other districts aren’t so lucky and struggle with aging buildings, lack of heating and air conditioning along with other repairs.

“It means we are sending our kids to schools where they need extra coats because there is inadequate heating,” Colorado Senator Faith Winter said.

Voters often think marijuana tax money is solving education funding gaps. The blunt truth is, it’s not a game changer.

The 2017/2018 marijuana tax revenue contributed $90 million toward education. That is less than 2% of the states $5.6 billion education budget that year.

The American Society of Civil Engineers recommends making changes to gather the funding needed to invest in our state infrastructure, a tricky task in a state where TABOR is law.

“Part of it is the commitment of the local citizenry and I think at some point the state has to look at the way public infrastructure was funded,” Reed said.