Saturday, October 12, 2002
Last fall, voters in Steamboat Springs approved a tax increase that raised salaries for beginning teachers to $29,075.
The increase was necessary to help recruit and retain teachers in a district that has the eighth highest cost of living of any school district in the state. But as much as the cost of living increase helped Steamboat, it actually magnified the problem in neighboring Hayden.
While Hayden does not have the same high cost of living that Steamboat does, the district still needs to be able to pay its teachers competitive salaries. Right now, that's not happening.
Starting teachers in Hayden are paid $24,133. Not only is that $5,000 less than Steamboat, but it also is $4,000 less than Moffat County and East Grand. It's also less than what starting teachers in the West Grand, Soroco and North Park school districts earn. In fact, Hayden's salaries are among the lowest in the state.
Referendum 3A on the November ballot would change that. The measure would increase the mill levy in the Hayden School District enough to raise an extra $154,000 for teacher salaries. That's a fraction of the $750,000 raised by the Steamboat Springs School District for its cost of living increase, but the money will go a long way for Hayden.
With an extra $154,000, Hayden can raise starting teachers' salaries by $2,000 and raise salaries for veteran teachers as well. If the measure is approved, Hayden's starting teachers will still earn less than their counterparts in Steamboat, Moffat, East Grand, West Grand, Soroco and North Park, but at least the gap will have closed.
The mill levy increase will cost the owner of a $125,000 home an estimated $21.32 increase in school taxes per year. The estimated tax increase for the owner of a $225,000 home is $38.37 per year. For a commercial property valued at $225,000, the increase would be about $121.62 per year. The benefits seem worth the increased costs to taxpayers.
Hayden has suffered enrollment decreases in recent years that have cost the district valuable state funding. In response, the district has been forced to cut staff and programs.
Teacher salaries have played a significant role in turnover many teachers come to Hayden with the idea of moving to neighboring districts in Steamboat or Craig as soon as there are openings. Such a pattern is detrimental to Hayden students, Hayden schools and ultimately, the Hayden community.
Referendum 3A will not wholly eliminate the challenges Hayden faces in recruiting and retaining teachers. But it will improve conditions, and it will send a message that the Hayden community cares about its teachers and thus, its schools.
We believe Hayden voters should vote "yes" on Referendum 3A.