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An interview with City Councilman Michael Hancock about Stapleton schools

Monday, July 27, 2009 Leave a Comment

Stapleton is in the throes of a baby boom. Last year, something like 25% of all children born in Denver were Stapleton kids. Next year, Stapleton's public elementary schools, Westerly Creek and Bill Roberts, will be at capacity. If you're like me, with two kids under the age of 4, this is disconcerting. Many of us moved to Stapleton for the schools -- and this community will succeed only if our schools succeed.

Forest City says they underestimated the kid population. So let's help them out -- I highly encourage each of you to (1) take this survey before August 1, and (2) attend the meeting with the Denver Public Schools on Wednesday, August 5, at Bill Roberts, at 6:45 pm, and (3) join the the StapletonSchoolsCommunity on Yahoo Groups.

It seems there is some uncertainty in our community about our tax dollars and how Denver schools are funded, so I went to our City Councilman, Michael Hancock, with a few questions. Hopefully his answers can help clear up those misconceptions (I know I had some!) and help us use the time in that meeting most effectively.

In summary, our higher than average property taxes do not pay for schools -- only more development in the new parts of Stapleton will generate the money for more schools.

There is no money for the third elementary school in Stapleton, nor is there a viable site for it any longer. Denver will receive stimulus money from the federal government, but it's all for supporting kids and schools in poverty, or special needs kids. But please, read on for the details...

Q: We pay higher than average property taxes in Stapleton. What percentage of those dollars, if any, goes to Denver Public Schools?

A: None. The add'l mil levy is levied by Westerly Creek Metro District for purposes of financing the in-tract infrastructure. Neither the City's nor DPS's mil levy is affected.

Q. Initially a third DPS School was planned to be built in Stapleton south of I-70 around the 2010 school year. Due to the economic climate, there are insufficient funds available through the Tax Increment Financing (the funding method that pays for public improvements at Stapleton) to currently cover the costs of that project as originally planned. What is the Tax Increment Financing, and where was that money supposed to come from?

A: Tax increment financing (TIF) is a financing mechanism that allows an urban renewal authority (DURA) to capture the net new sales and property taxes created as a result of redeveloping a blighted area. Each phase of development at Stapleton has bonded against the estimated TIF to be generated from that phase of development to finance the Trunk infrastructure needed to support that development. To date, DURA has issued $286 million in TIF bonds to finance regional roads, sewer, Central Park, the first DPS school and the Bill Roberts school and other community amenities. Each round of financing is "self-supporting" - DURA looks only to the development that will be produced as a result of the infrastructure being financed when sizing the bond issue. The third school at Stapleton will be included on the list of other Trunk infrastructure needed to support the next phase of development. Without additional development there is not additional tax increment available to support more TIF bonds.

Q: The third DPS School was supposed to be built south of Bluff Lake, at 26th & Iola, part of Filing 16. We have heard that the land is now tied up in asbestos litigation for many years. What can you tell us about that? Many of us bought homes in the Eastbridge area of Stapleton based on that plan.

A: You are correct, that land is still under remediation, slowed by the financial collapse of AIG. If funds were available to build today the school could not be built on this site due to contamination. DIA officials who are overseeing the clean up briefed the Stapleton Development Corporation board of Directors on July 23, 2009, and in short, acknowledged that discussions are still on-going with the replacement insurance company to AIG and that progress is being made.

Q: Will DPS receive stimulus funds? We have heard that DPS will receive over $50 million in stimulus funds. What will that money be used for?

A: Yes, DPS will receive money from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) or commonly referred to “stimulus funds. DPS will be receiving ARRA stimulus funding determined through formulas for Title I students (supporting kids/schools in poverty – roughly $32M over 2 years) and Title 6A (special education students – roughly $15M over 2 years) to be spent on programs directly in support of these students. DPS will be competing for other competitive grants as they come available.

*Thanks to Councilman Hancock for his response -- hope we'll see him at the meeting.*


  • Anonymous said:  

    Very informative. My take away is that Stapleton residents have allot to gain by coming together as a community. Stapleton schools and the local businesses are directly tied to the lifestyle of the residents. We need to support the local businesses at the Town Center and Quebec Square which will generate more tax dollars. Which will help with financing school(s) development. If we cannot have an elementary school built then a high school is probably way off.

    However, it appears that no new school will be built without further development of projects such as the East Bridge town center. Has anyone heard on the status of that project?