The Education Fund Board gave final approval Wednesday to $1.87 million in funding requests for items to benefit the Steamboat Springs School District.
Topping the list of approved items was a $417,950 request that would pay the salaries of 10 classroom teachers hired during the past decade to reduce class sizes in district schools. The Steamboat Springs School Board still must accept each Fund Board-approved request.
Class sizes in the district could exceed 25 students in some grade levels if the district doesn't receive help from the Fund Board, Superintendent Donna Howell said. Class sizes at the elementary level currently average about 19 students per teacher, she said, though some classes have slightly more students and some have slightly fewer students.
The Fund Board also approved nearly $600,000 for the salaries and benefits of most of the district's content standards and technology employees, including the director positions in each department. The district spends about $100,000 from its budget for content standards staffing, Director of Finance and Operations Dale Mellor said.
For the third consecutive year, the Fund Board approved a request to help pay for the district's parent-initiated elementary school Spanish program. This year's request from the Educational Excellence Commission was for $10,000. The parent information committees at Strawberry Park and Soda Creek elementary schools contribute the other $20,000 needed to operate the program. Also as in past years, School Board member Pat Gleason didn't support the funding request for the elementary school Spanish program because the district lacks an articulated K-12 foreign language program.
Two first-time funding requests approved by the Fund Board on Wednesday were $50,000 for a full-time English as a Second Language teacher and program coordinator and $75,000 for contracted social workers and/or counselors for the elementary schools and middle school. The ESL position is intended to help the district address the growing population of students who don't speak English or who speak very little English. The social workers and counselors would be contracted to address the steady increase in the number of district students with special social and emotional needs.
The Fund Board approved a $240,000 request to purchase three new school buses for the district, which has fallen behind on its bus replacement schedule because of budgetary constraints, Gleason said. Some Fund Board members expressed concern with funding an item considered to be a routine district maintenance expenditure and said money for a one-time bus replacement request should come from Fund Board reserves.
Other approved funding requests included $267,000 for the final payment on a loan obtained for the middle school expansion project, $10,000 for a master site plan for Soda Creek Elementary School, $50,000 for a data warehousing system, $15,000 for a HelpDesk system, $24,100 for new computers and printers, $5,000 for a summer reading program for elementary students and $110,000 to fund curriculum development.
Fund Board members turned down two funding requests for maintenance work at the George P. Sauer Human Services Center. The first was a $38,000 request to repair the brick mortar on the old high school building; the second was a $152,000 request to replace the aging and broken windows at the Human Services Center. Concerns about the requests included whether to spend money on the Human Services Center when the district has yet to adopt a long-range facilities plan. District Facilities Director Rick Denney said the window replacement was a safety issue, and School Board member Michael Loomis said replacing the windows could produce significant energy savings for the district. Both requests failed by 3-5 votes.
Wednesday's meeting was the first opportunity for each of the Fund Board's three commissions to seek final approval for funding requests. The Fund Board is a nonprofit group responsible for allocating about $2 million in annual half-cent city of Steamboat Springs sales tax revenue. The half-cent tax revenue must be spent for educational purposes.
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