Fund Board hosts meeting

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Since it first was approved by Steamboat Springs voters in 1993, a half-cent city sales tax for education has provided more than $17 million for various Steamboat Springs School District programs and projects.

On Wednesday, the Education Fund Board -- the group responsible for appropriating revenue from the tax -- hosted a community meeting geared toward making sure the public understands how all those tax dollars are being spent.

"We want you folks to understand what we're doing," Education Fund Board President Jim Gill said. "We're allocating your tax dollars."

More of a brief and general overview than a detailed account of Fund Board actions and expenditures, the 1 1/2 hour meeting was attended by two dozen people, most of whom were associated with the Fund Board or the school district.

Gill and several Fund Board commission members reviewed the history of the Steamboat Springs Education Fund, recent projects and programs it has funded and how the Fund Board is attempting to distance itself from the school district to avoid potential legal threats to the sales tax.

School district Superintendent Donna Howell said Education Fund money has had an enormous and positive effect on the district, and she outlined how recent outside analyses of district systems and departments will help formulate a long range strategic plan to guide the school system into the future. The Education Fund paid for those analyses.

Gill also renewed the nonprofit group's call for more volunteers to sit on its board and three commissions.

"We're really looking for fresh volunteers," Gill said. "Please join us."

He especially encouraged anyone with strong feelings about how the sales tax revenue should be spent to sign up.

Strawberry Park Elementary School parent Julie Ann Carta expressed her thoughts about how Education Fund money should be allocated, questioning why more money isn't spent to decrease class sizes in district schools.

"We need to use this money for smaller class sizes," Carta said, adding that parents won't vote to extend the life of the tax if they don't think the money is being spent on things they want. The half-cent sales tax is set to expire in 2009.

Education Fund money has helped decrease district class sizes from an average of 25 students per teacher to an average of 20 students per teacher, Gill responded.

"Our message to the community was never that we'd spend 100 percent for small class sizes," Gill said. "Anyone who thinks small class sizes were the only part of it either wasn't here when we voted for it or doesn't remember."

The meeting also featured a student-made video highlighting how Education Fund money has helped improve education in the district.

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