Fund board begins to see requests

Half-cent sales tax has created close to $1.9M in revenue

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— And they're off.

Competition for the Education Fund Board's estimated $1.9 million in revenue from the city's half-cent sales tax began Wednesday night when the Technology Commission presented its first readings of funding requests to the EFB.

The Technology Commission's requests totaled $700,500, about $46,000 less than what the commission was awarded last year. However, the requests are nearly identical to last year's, with the anticipation that district funds will cover the $46,000 difference.

School technology provides an essential tool for educating Steamboat's students, said Cathleen Nardi, technology director for the Steamboat Springs School District and a non-voting member of the Technology Commission.

"Technology is a part of (students) lives in a way that none of us have experienced," Nardi said.

"Kids come alive" when technology is used in the classroom, she said.

Furthermore, technology can provide Steamboat's youth with future opportunities in the community and an alternative to resort-based careers, Nardi said.

The Technology Commission's largest requests are for staffing, hardware and a network upgrade. These items account for 75 percent of the total request amount.

The staff request of $312,500 represents a decrease of $6,115 from what was approved during last year's EFB cycle. If approved, staffing funds would pay for the district's five technology staffers, consisting of Nardi, two computer support specialists and four half-time technology coordinators-teacher trainers.

The $138,00 requested for hardware will cover replacement of about 92 computer workstations. Typically, replaced machines are at least five years old and incapable of performing necessary tasks, Nardi said. The district has approximately 660 computers.

The network upgrade, with a price tag of $75,000, seeks to implement the second phase of the Network Upgrade Implementation Plan. Phase II will include upgrading the network servers in each school, consolidating the student database management system into a single database, upgrading the wide area network and creating a district Intranet to facilitate communication and data exchange, according to the Technology Commission's request for funding packet.

Despite the larger nature of the staff, hardware and network upgrade requests, the request for $35,000 to continue subscription to the Marmot community library database generated the most questions from those in attendance.

The Marmot community library is a consortium of the school district's libraries and includes more than 20 Western Slope libraries as well. Using the system, students and community members can access the library collections of each district school and the Bud Werner Library.

Nardi said the system is valuable to district staff, teachers and students, saves cataloguing costs and prevents a district school from purchasing books already possessed by another district school, in addition to other services.

How often the Marmot system is used by elementary and middle school students, and whether its use at those schools justified the subscription costs were questions posed by at least a couple people in attendance.

The EFB allocates revenue generated from the half-cent sales tax for various school district projects, programs and improvements. The Technology Commission, Educational Excellence Commission and Capital Commission vie for the sales tax funds. The 13-member EFB allocates the funds for the 2003-04 school year at the end of March after each commission has presented its requests.

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