Fund Board mulls revisions

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Members of the Education Fund Board are working to revise the group's budgeting process in hopes of increasing efficiency without jeopardizing thorough review.

The work comes in the wake of last year's budgeting process, which some Fund Board members have described as lengthy and inefficient. The Fund Board and its three commissions, Educational Excellence, Technology and Capital, will begin the 2004-05 school year budgeting process in the next three months.

The Fund Board administers a Steamboat Springs half-cent sales tax dedicated to funding educational programs in the city's public school district. The sales tax typically generates about $1.9 million every year. The Fund Board allocates the funds based upon proposals it receives from each commission.

In past years, when there were only two Fund Board commissions, each commission was guaranteed 40 percent of the revenue, with the final 20 percent available to funding proposals the Fund Board felt most deserved money.

Revisions to the Fund Board's setup, including the addition of a third commission, meant the group had to devise a different way to allocate fund revenue each year. Last year, none of the commissions was guaranteed any of the roughly $1.8 million, so they competed for the money through a series of meetings during which each commission presented and explained its requests to the 13-member Fund Board.

The result was extra and lengthy meetings and commission requests that surpassed the amount of available funds.

Still, Fund Board members liked numerous aspects of the revised process, including the depth to which each proposal was explained, discussed and debated among the group. But discussion that immediately followed the budget process centered on how the process could be improved for the next cycle, which is a couple of months away.

A volunteer task force made up of Fund Board members Robin Crossan, Norm Weaver and Jerry Kozatch brought a draft proposal for a revised budgeting process to the board at Wednesday's meeting. Assuming half-cent sales tax revenue of $1.8 million, the draft process calls for $200,000 to be set aside for administrative expenses, funding of the district's grants writer and an annual contingency reserve.

The draft proposal also suggests allocating a certain amount of money to each commission and leaving an unallocated "pool" of revenue to be given to any commission based upon the strength of the proposals it brings forward.

"I think this is a fantastic place to start," Fund Board member Tom Ptach said, echoing the sentiment of many of the board members in attendance Wednesday night.

Members Pat Gleason and Kozatch expressed concern that the group needed to determine if the Fund Board would continue to pay for several institutionalized expenditures such as the Steamboat Springs School District's director of contents standards and its director of technology before a certain dollar amount could be assigned to each commission.

Superintendent Donna Howell said the district needs to get feedback from the community on what it wants to be funded by the half-cent sales tax to help the Fund Board make those decisions.

Weaver, the primary author of the proposal, said he expected the baseline allocations to each commission would be spending guidelines, not hard-and-fast spending limits.

No official action needs to be taken on the budgeting proposal, and the Fund Board likely will revisit the draft at its January meeting.

In other Fund Board news:

n Sue MacCarthy was elected by the Educational Excellence Commission as one of its two representatives on the Fund Board; Kozatch is the other.

n The Steamboat Springs School Board appointed John Belz to the Technology Commission, Jamie Hallman and Libby Ryan to the Educational Excellence Commission and Keri Rusthoi to the Fund Board as one of its three at-large community members. There is one vacancy to fill on the Technology Commission and one on the Educational Excellence Commission.

n The Fund Board will vote next month on a plan to stagger its terms in hopes of preventing an influx of expired terms as occurred this fall.

-- To reach Brent Boyer call 871-4234

or e-mail bboyer@steamboatpilot.com

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