Fund Board allocates budget

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— A long, revised process came to an end -- if only for a year -- Wednesday night when the Steamboat Springs Education Fund Board allocated its 2003-04 budget.

By way of a 10-1 vote, the Fund Board allocated $390,000 to the Capital Commission, $635,000 to the Technology Commission, $775,000 to the Educational Excellence Commission and $100,000 to reserves.

The $1.9 million total equals the projected revenue from the city's half-cent sales tax, which the Fund Board uses to pay for projects, programs and other services for the Steamboat Springs School District.

Wednesday's meeting culminated a lengthy process during which each commission presented funding requests to the Fund Board and the school district's administrative team provided its recommendations. These meetings began at the beginning of January.

"This has been an awful lot of time," Fund Board President Jim Gill said. "An ungodly amount of time has been put in just to get us to this allocation. I don't know how many of us will tolerate three months of brain damage next year."

In past years, when there were only two Fund Board commissions, each commission knew what percentage of revenue it would receive. This year, the Fund Board's three commissions vied for funds based on their initial recommendations.

Now that each commission knows how much money it has to work with, the commissions will most likely reconvene to reprioritize and adjust funding levels for their individual recommendations. All three commissions were allocated less money than they requested.

The Educational Excellence Commission, which requested up to $1.06 million in funds, suffered the largest funding blow. Many Fund Board members expressed concern with the commission's $546,000 request for small class size, which included funding for four teachers.

"I'm concerned about our ability to afford those class size levels," Fund Board Vice President Carol Comeau said, expressing hesitation similar to that of other Fund Board members.

Several Fund Board members said they approved funding an elementary Spanish program, which is currently in pilot phase at both Strawberry Park and Soda Creek elementary schools.

However, it will be up to the Educational Excellence Commission to determine if it wants to bring the program up for final approval from the Fund Board.

The district administrative team did not recommend funding the program because of future impacts to the middle and high school foreign language programs and looming budget deficits.

After allocating its budget, the Fund Board gave final approval to the Capital Commission for its $1.6 million middle school expansion project.

The Fund Board approved $400,000 from this year's budget for the project. The remainder will come from $625,000 in previously unallocated Capital Commission funds and a 24-month, $511,000 loan to be secured by Fund Board certificates of deposit in local banks.

The project can't begin until the Board of Education accepts the Fund Board's monetary "gift" of project funding. School board President Paul Fisher said the board will conduct a 15-minute meeting Friday afternoon to vote whether to accept the gift.

Fisher said it's probable that the gift will be accepted, opening the door for the project to begin.

The Fund Board also discussed its reserve level and differing philosophies in regards to what level of reserves should be maintained or spent.

Currently, the Fund Board has about $1.8 million in reserve, which is about the equivalent of one year's worth of half-cent sales tax revenue.

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