Sunday, September 9, 2001
Steamboat Springs The Steamboat Springs School Board is expected to make a decision tonight on whether it will put an issue on the November ballot that would raise property taxes to fund salary increases for its teachers if passed.
The ballot issue is in response to the passage of state legislation pushed by an Eagle County citizens group and sponsored by State Rep. Al White, R-Winter Park, that allows for a cost-of-living increase in the district's finance formula. The increase is meant to finance increases in teacher salaries.
"The cost of living factor hasn't been adjusted since 1994," District Superintendent Cyndy Simms said.
However, the legislation does not fund the cost-of-living increase from state monies, Simms said.
The ballot issue would ask voters to increase their property taxes to fund the cost-of-living adjustment, which would increase teacher salaries.
The tax increase would come to about $19 for each $100,000 of assessed valuation on a residence. For a commercial property, the tax would come to $61 per $100,000 of assessed valuation. The district isn't sure how big of a raise that would mean for teachers, in part because the final amount would be determined by next year's state finance formula and by the number of students in the district.
Simms said the board has until Wednesday to put an issue on the ballot and most likely will decide if it will go ahead with putting the property tax question on the ballot at tonight's meeting.
"They will take it into consideration," she said.
The Steamboat district has struggled the past two years to offer teachers the salaries it wants, coming up with raises that many teachers say fall short of what they need to stay in Steamboat. If the issue gets put on the ballot and passes, it would help give some teeth to a long-term compensation plan the district is trying to put together. The plan would allow teachers to know what their pay will be through the years.
The difficulty with establishing the long-term plan is that the district relies on the state to determine how much in local property taxes the district can receive in a given year. The state uses a finance formula, which is adjusted by the Denver/Boulder Consumer Price Index every year, to determine how much money each school will receive. It is also adjusted by what is called the "cost of living index," which is multiplied by a base number to determine how much the school district will receive. That factor has changed by a mere thousandths of a point in the past eight years even as the cost of living in Steamboat has boomed.