Douglas County looking to fund major school improvements this November

DOUGLAS COUNTY, Colo. -- This election season, Douglas County voters will have to decide how to fund major improvements in their schools that aim to fix essential necessities, like heating and air conditioning. 

The bond and mill levy override — 5A and 5B, respectively — are on the ballot this year for families in the county. The district wants to raise $300 million through those measures hoping to fix their crumbling schools. 

At Ponderosa High School, Principal Tim Ottmann showed Denver7 the open pies and rusting boilers which have been virtually untouched at his school since 1983. The heat and air conditioning go out on an almost weekly basis, he says, adding the carpets have been there for nearly 35 years. 

"Underneath is asbestos. So to replace the carpet is an enormous amount of money," Ottmann told Denver7.

With no money, the schools have had to struggle to survive.

"It just doesn't get done. And when it does get done it's a band-aid. It can't be done completely because there's no money for it," said Ottmann. 

At nearby Douglas County High, Principal Tony Kappas showed Denver7 the crumbling stands at the stadium.

“I'm worried about the safety of our public," Kappas said, which is why the school board is now pushing for change.

Voters are being asked to back ballot issue 5B in a $250 million bond; and 5A, a $40 million mill levy override. The majority of the money would go directly to so-called "Tier 1” improvements — basically fixing and upgrading problems that could shut down a school.

“The basic stuff. When you walk into the building you expect to be warm. You expect to be cool at the right time. We have a lot of issues with that,” said Ottmann.

Ponderosa alone needs $4.4 million in Tier 1 improvements; Douglas County High needs $6.6 million. Even newer schools like Rock Canyon have a list of needed improvements.

The mill levy money would also fund additional counselors and pay raises to make teachers and staff salaries more competitive with other districts.

Parent Meg Mastin is all for it. 

“It's an investment in our students. It's an investment in our community. The return that we will see is absolutely positive and I think it's very worth it," she said. 

Opponents have balked at the high sticker prices of the ballot issues. If both are approved, district officials say the average Douglas County homeowner will pay an additional $208 in property taxes. Dougco voters have not approved any school bond measures since 2006, largely due to political infighting.Bbond measures were shot down in 2008 and 2011.

Parent Amy McDowell says the time for change is now.

“It’s for my kids, (my) neighbor's kids. The kids in Parker, in Castle Rock. It's for the future of Douglas County, really,” said McDowell.

Voters will have the final say in November. 

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