COLORADO SPRINGS – You can still smell the glue from the new carpet in the library at Martinez Elementary.
“This is like moving into a new house,” said librarian Dawn Petty. “The kids are excited, we’re excited. It’s clean, it smells good.”
The old carpet had been here since the school opened 30 years ago. Last November, voters passed a mill levy override increasing property taxes in District 11. The new money helped replace the flooring here in the Martinez Elementary library and in the classrooms.
Scott Lewis, Executive Director of Facilities, Operations and Transportation for D-11, said the $224,000 project just couldn’t happen without the new money.
“In terms of priorities, this wouldn’t come anywhere near it. It didn’t come anywhere near it,” he said. “That’s why for basically 30 years we had this carpet.”
He explained that the district previously budgeted between $1-1.5 million a year to spend on capital improvement projects each year. This year alone nearly $3 million in projects are active or completed.
When the district was preparing to ask voters for the tax increase, Lewis said he compiled a list of 250 projects to include in the ballot question. He hopes to finish the first 100 by next summer.
“Instead of lots and lots and lots of deferred maintenance, we’re actually able to start taking bites out of that backlog.”
Facility improvements just a part of how that extra $42 million dollars a year is being spent. District spokesperson Devra Ashby said that teachers and staff are all earning more money thanks to the tax increase.
“I do believe it’s making D11 more attractive to work for and we didn’t have nearly the vacancies that we saw other districts struggling with at the beginning of the year due to teacher shortages across the country.”
The money is also being spent to replace outdated computers in schools across the district. All of the elementary schools will soon have a school counselor on site. Beginning next school year, school resources officers will return the district’s middle schools.
“We’re waiting on some recruits to graduate from the police academy which is one of the reasons for the long-range plan and not having the SRO’s implemented right away,” Ashby explained.
She said the employees want the community to know how much they appreciate their trust.
“We are so grateful to the taxpayers for supporting us with the voting in November, it’s made a big difference to all of us,” said Mrs. Petty.
The district has a dedicated financial transparency webpage to keep voters informed of how the mill levy money is being spent. Ashby said that the community is welcome to contact their neighborhood school to schedule a tour to see the improvements in person.
“We invite people to come into their community school an see what’s going on, come into Martinez and see what’s going on in here, you might be surprised.”