With lawsuits pending over bond funds, Poudre (Colo.) district has to delay school construction

Voters approved a $375 million bond issue, but legal challenges to the vote prevent Poudre from issuing bonds.

With pending litigation casting doubt on the availability of funding, the Poudre (Colo.) School District has decided to delay the opening of three planned schools by at least one year.

Poudre Superintendent Sandra Smyser says the district will delay school construction projects by a year.

"In order to allow time to resolve litigation involving this issue and reschedule projects, the district will push the entire construction timeline back by one year," the district said in an online statement.

The Coloradoan reports that the first of three new schools, a 600-seat elementary school, is now expected to open in 2019. Two new combined middle/high schools are tentatively set to open in 2021.

The district secured funding for the projects in a $375 million bond proposal that voters narrowly approved in November 2016. However, Poudre officials have been unable to move forward with bond sales because of legal challenges by community activist Eric Sutherland that contested the validity of the bond vote.

Two cases related to the bond issue — a petition to deem the bonds valid and a lawsuit involving Sutherland — have been combined and will be the topic of the hearing later this month.

It's unclear if a successful outcome for Poudre at the hearing will give the district the all-clear to issue the bonds. Administrators have to make sure all existing and potential legal issues are resolved before issuing bonds so investors know they will be valid.

The district does not know if or when it will be able to access bond funds or how much the delay will cost.

Poudre Superintendent Sandra Smyser says delaying the new schools' openings a full year, even if litigation is resolved sooner, will be least disruptive to students and staff of the new schools. The school district does not typically open new schools in the middle of a school year.

Video from The Coloradoan:

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