School grants totaling $447 million funded in part by marijuana sales
State officials this week approved $447 million for 35 school construction projects, the largest amount ever awarded under a Colorado school building program that is partially funded by proceeds from legal marijuana sales.
Some of the largest projects include the $61.2 million replacement of a junior-senior high school and renovation of an elementary school in Hayden and the $50.9 million renovation and replacement of the Buena Vista High and Middle School. The projects were approved Wednesday by the Colorado State Board of Education.
About $85 million of the 2018 Building Excellent Schools Today — or BEST — awards will be funded through cash grants from income earned from the Colorado State Land Board, marijuana excise taxes, spillover from the Colorado Lottery and interest on the assistance fund.
Applicants also contribute $74 million in matching funds, according to the state.
Another $190 million comes from lease-purchase grants from the state. Financing will be repaid with future assistance fund revenues. Applicants also contribute $98 million in matching money.
The BEST program began in 2008 and is intended for the “improvement of health, safety, security and technology in public schools,” according to the Colorado Department of Education. Schools apply for the grants and the Capital Construction Advisory Board reviews applications, prioritizing them and submitting their recommendations to the state board for approval.
Other projects include the $39.9 million replacement of Orchard Mesa Middle School in Mesa County, a $32.3 million new preschool through 12th grade school in Kit Carson and a new school for Swallows Charter Academy in Pueblo for $20.1 million.