Fund Board weighs changes

Group looks to limit vulnerabilities by distancing from school district

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The potential for future legal threats to the city of Steamboat Springs' half-cent sales tax for education continues to weigh on the minds of Education Fund Board members.

At their Wednesday meeting, members of the 13-person nonprofit group met with attorney Mike Holloran to discuss changes to Fund Board bylaws that would further distance the group from the Steamboat Springs School District, the primary beneficiary of the sales tax revenue.

The discussion came on the heels of a legislative effort led by state Rep. Keith King, R-Colorado Springs, last spring to outlaw the school district from accepting revenue generated by the sales tax and gifted to it by the Fund Board. King argued the sales tax violated the equity sought through the state's Public School Finance Act and a constitutional mandate to provide a thorough and uniform education for all state students.

Through the lobbying efforts of Rep. Al White, R-Winter Park, and Sen. Jack Taylor, R-Steamboat Springs, King's provision outlawing the district's use of city sales tax money died in the House Education Committee.

But the possibility of future efforts to ban the sales tax has motivated the Fund Board to continue to look at ways to distance itself from the school district.

On Wednesday, the Fund Board directed Holloran to draft a potential change to its bylaws that would shift the responsibility for interviewing and appointing Fund Board and Fund Board commission members from the Steamboat Springs School Board to the Fund Board itself.

The School Board currently has sole authority over the appointments, and taking that authority away from the district is one way of distancing the two entities, Fund Board President Jim Gill said.

A second method of reducing direct school district connections to the Fund Board is to decrease the number of School Board members who sit on the Fund Board, several members said.

Four of the group's 13 voting members are School Board members. Fund Board member Jerry Kozatch proposed removing all School Board members from the group, but others, including Gill, argued that their presence is too important to eliminate.

The Fund Board spends about $2 million in annual half-cent sales tax revenue by approving spending requests from its three commissions -- technology, capital and educational excellence.

Approved spending requests, which must be for specific programs or other educational items, are then given to the School Board as gifts. The School Board has the final say about whether to accept or refuse those gifts.

"There's too much need for understanding what the School Board is thinking not to have its members involved," Gill said. "I think it's a link we'd regret eliminating."

Because Superintendent Donna Howell, Director of Curriculum and Instruction Kelly Stanford, Technology Director Cathleen Nardi and Facilities Director Rick Denney participate as nonvoting Fund Board members, Kozatch said a School Board presence isn't necessary.

But there did seem to be agreement that the number of School Board members sitting on the Fund Board could be reduced. School Board member Michael Loomis proposed reducing the number of School Board members on the Fund Board from four to two.

No formal action was taken on any of the proposals discussed Wednesday.

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