Sharing resources, not funds

Fund Board, county school boards meet to discuss tax


— Members of Routt County's three school boards will discuss how to better share resources already secured through Steamboat Springs' half-cent sales tax for education.

That was the direction agreed on at Wednesday's meeting of the Education Fund Board, the group that allocates money generated by the tax.

At the meeting, members of the South Routt School Board reiterated their stance that proceeds from the sales tax should benefit all Routt County students. Members of the Hayden School Board attended the meeting and asked questions, but did not give an opinion.

The Fund Board agreed that coming up with ways to share current resources was appropriate, but that it was not prepared to write a check to fund the needs of the other districts.

One member from the Steamboat Springs, South Routt and Hayden school boards will organize and meet for the discussions.

Fund Board President Jim Gill also said he asked attorney Mike Holloran to draft a resolution stating the board's position on spending money outside of the Steamboat district. The resolution then could be discussed and revised by the Fund Board.

During the meeting, South Routt Super--inten--dent Steve Jones said that 57 percent of South Routt students have at least one parent who works in Steamboat every day.

"When you talk about Steamboat Springs, it's a greater community," Jones said. "We have a lot of people who work here, shop here and pay that tax."

Thus, he said, South Routt students also should benefit.

Fund Board member Sue MacCarthy said she didn't think the Fund Board could assume Steamboat taxpayers would be against the idea of spreading benefits of the sales tax around the county.

"Steamboat taxpayers might very well understand the community concept," she said.

Gill said that if the Fund Board decided to allocate funds outside the Steamboat district, it could face legal and political obstacles. If voters disapprove of the change, the half-cent sales tax could be turned down when it next comes up for voter renewal, he said.

Steamboat voters have approved the sales tax three times, beginning 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.

The $2 million in annual revenue is spent almost exclusively in the Steamboat Springs School District. For the past few years, the Fund Board has spent about $60,000 a year on a grant writer who secures grants for all three county school districts.

Members of the South Routt School Board emphasized that they were thankful to have the grant writer. But, they said, that is not enough.

"We have to take away education programs, stop sports programs, not hire teachers, not hire principles," said AlidaLee Gingerich, a member of the South Routt School Board.

The South Routt School Board, she said, was "very pleased" to hear that the Fund Board was open to a discussion.


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