Funds to stay in Steamboat

Proceeds from half-cent sales tax won't go to other districts

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Funds from the half-cent sales tax for education will be used only for the Steamboat Springs School District, according to a new resolution.

The Steamboat Springs Education Fund Board passed the resolution at its Wednesday night meeting.

The resolution was drafted by attorney Michael Holloran and was based on various documents related to the half-cent sales tax.

Although ballot language did not specify that funds were to be spent only on the Steamboat school district, other documents did, according to Holloran's research. One such document was the ordinance passed by the City Council allowing a vote on the sales tax.

The resolution comes after the South Routt School District's recent request that the Fund Board consider funding needs in other county districts. One argument for funding programs outside the Steamboat district is that many county residents buy groceries and other goods in Steamboat, therefore contributing to the sales tax.

No one from the South Routt or Hayden school districts was present at Wednesday's meeting.

Fund Board Pres-ident Jim Gill said that it was appropriate for the Fund Board to take a position on spending funds outside of the school district given the recent requests.

"It was time that we said what is our official position," he said after the resolution was approved.

At last month's meeting, the Fund Board discussed the concept of funding other districts with members of the South Routt and Hayden school districts. The districts agreed to form a committee to look at how to better share programs, curriculum and other resources purchased for the Steamboat Springs School District. The first meeting of that group is scheduled for Friday.

Gill said he did not think the decision to keep funds in the district would be a surprise.

But some Fund Board members pointed out that the ballots voters saw did not specify that the Steamboat Springs School District would be the only beneficiary of the funds.

Only residents of the city of Steamboat Springs voted on the sales tax, which implies the funds would be spent in the city, Gill said. And, when the Steamboat Springs Education Fund began in 1993, he said there was no question that the sales tax dollars would stay in the district.

When the half-cent sales tax comes up for renewal, another ballot question could be added to see whether voters would want the funds spent outside of the district, he said. Gill said he would not be in favor of spending any money outside of the district until voters specifically were asked about it.

Steamboat voters have approved the sales tax three times, first in 1993. The tax has generated about $20 million since then, with proceeds typically going to capital and technology needs and projects that improve the quality of educational programs.

In other business, Gill announced that his term expires in June and that he would not continue to serve on the Fund Board. He has been on the Fund Board since its inception.

Gill said he thought it was time for new people to be in charge of the board. He said the current board was of the "highest caliber," and he thanked everyone for patience and support.

The Fund Board's vice president will serve as president until a permanent president is elected.

"We did good things for the school district," Gill said. "We argued a lot, we debated a lot, but when the dust settled, education benefited." And, he said, so did children.

-- To reach Susan Cunningham, call 871-4203 or e-mail scunningham@steamboatpilot.com

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