Resorts pass teacher raises

Steamboat joins other communities in passing ballot issue

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— When Steamboat Springs' voters passed a cost of living adjustment Tuesday, they were not the only taxpayers in Colorado to approve an increase in taxes to raise teacher and staff salaries.

Steamboat Springs School District was one of six school districts in the state to have the ballot issue approved by a convincing margin. Rep. White (R-Winter Park), who helped push a bill through the state Legislature to incorporate an increase cost of living factor into the state's finance formula, said he was pleased with Tuesday's results.

"I'm extremely happy. This is a critical issue to schools in my district. The fact is now they'll receive funding that will enable them to be on equal footing," White said.

Eagle County, which began the campaign to increase cost of living for teacher's salaries last year, had their ballot issue pass by 59 percent. Melinda Gladitsh, who helped start the Vail Citizen's group that brought the issue to the forefront in state Legislature, said Tuesday's ballot issue won by a much larger margin than most traditional tax measures in Eagle County.

That tax measure will bring an extra $3 million in for teacher salaries.

With a 61 percent approval, Aspen voters passed the COLA increase, which would give the district over $1 million a year more to increase teacher salaries. When the state reevaluated the cost of living factors last year, Aspen had the highest factor at 1.846, which changed from 1.638.

Summit school district also passed the COLA increase to bring in $596,000.

Leon Sant, superintendent of the West Grand School District, said he was pleasantly pleased with an approval that had 57 percent of the voters in favor of the COLA increase.

Like many of the other schools in the state going for the increase, Sant said his district had no organized opposition, but there was scattered opponents not willing to increase the district's budget by $45,000.

"There was no organized opposition. That isn't uncharacteristic. Coming out against the school district is like coming out against motherhood and apple pie," Sant said.

East Grand also passed the COLA increase by 56 percent. The $659,000 it raises will go towards maintaining small class sizes, increasing teachers' salaries and improving its summer school program.

On Tuesday, Steamboat Spring passed by 59 percent of the votes to increase the school budget by $773,000 to attract and retain teachers.

In the first year that school districts could bring the ballot issue before the taxpayers, both Gladitsh and White said the success of Tuesday might encourage other districts with high COLA to go for the increase next year. White pointed to Telluride, which has the second highest reevaluated cost of living factor at 1.585, and Gladitsh mentioned Front Range schools as possible candidates for next year's ballot issue.

"A lot of the Front Range schools where they didn't put (the ballot issue) on this year were coming off a big bond issue and felt it was too soon, but they're planning to do it next year," Gladitsh said.

White said as long as the mandatory state finance formula is in place, school districts can ask voters to incorporate the COLA increase into their budgets in the years to come.

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