DENVER — Denver Community Schools officials are asking voters to go to the polls to support a $7.3 million bond issue referendum.

The last attempt to pass the proposal was defeated by about a dozen votes in June.

The bonds would pay for much of an approximately $10.4 million project to build a new gym, auditorium and indoor track.

The current gym, built in 1956, is outdated, not very usable for performing arts events, not handicap accessible and doesn’t hold many fans for sporting events, said Scott Krebsbach, Denver School Board president.

“This would enhance every kid’s opportunity to participate in fine arts and a variety of athletic activities,” he said. “To have fifth-graders practicing at 8 o’clock at night is not conducive to their learning experience.”

The June referendum won approval from about 59 percent of the voters but needed a supermajority of 60 percent to pass.

School officials said low voter turnout contributed to the initiative’s defeat, and they are working to boost participation.

“I heard from a lot of people who supported it who were confident it would pass so they didn’t vote,” Krebsbach said. “I think it’s just a matter of supporters realizing every single vote counts.”

Approval of the referendum will boost taxes for district property owners $1.59 per $1,000 of taxable property value. After state tax rollbacks, an owner of a home with an assessed valuation of $100,000 would see a property tax increase increase of $80.74 per year. Taxes on commercial property of same value would increase by $143.11 per year.

In addition to an increase in property taxes, the district plans to use $1.5 million in sales tax revenues and $500,000 in physical plant and equipment levy funds. Officials also plan to raise $1.5 million in public donations.

Matthew Gillaspie of Piper Jaffray & Co. said if the bond passes, the Denver Community School district would be at about 50.2 percent of it’s total debt limit, which is 5 percent of the district’s total property tax valuation.

Superintendent Brad Laures said in a public forum earlier this month he believes getting word out about the referendum will help boost turnout and pass the measure this time around. About 50 percent of eligible voters came out for the last election, he said.

The project would be the first phase of a plan to eventually build a new middle and high school at the same location. The indoor track and some athletic facilities would be available for community use, school officials said.

“We want to build something that will last,” Kebsbach said. “It will be something the whole community can use and be proud of.”

At least one resident said he was reluctant to support the plan because it focuses on extracurricular activities and not classroom facilities.

Krebsbach said he understands the concern, but added Denver has high participation in sports and fine arts and existing classroom space is still usable.

“We can teach kids in those rooms,” he said. “Where we fall down is our gym and our performing arts facilities.”

Voting opens at 7 a.m. at the Denver Community Room. Polls close at 8 p.m.

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General assignment reporter for the Courier

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