Board develops revenue plan

School officials meet to discuss mill levy override

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— The Steamboat Springs School Board met during a special meeting Tuesday to come up with a plan for how the district would use revenue from a proposed mill levy override that will appear on November's ballot.

Officials said the district's first priority will be to increase all teacher and support staff salaries to equal the mean salaries of nine comparable school districts. Those districts include Cherry Creek, Aspen and Summit.

Steamboat pays its employees below the mean at all experience levels. Superintendent Donna Howell said $210,000 of the potential $600,000 generated in the first year of the mill levy override would go toward raising salaries.

The board also said it wants to use $240,000 in override revenue to help the district remain competitive - and retain teachers - in a tough Colorado market.

The board's third priority for the mill levy funds would cover a variety of expenses, including housing allowances, relocation expenses and 401K plans for teacher and staff.

Board member Jeff Troeger said it was necessary for the board to be more specific with how it planned to use the money before going to voters next month, but he liked that some flexibility remains in the override plans.

None of the revenue generated by a possible override would go to the district's general budget, officials said.

"This goes into the future," board member Pat Gleason said. "As the needs change, this allows us to make those changes as necessary. We've never offered relocation allowances or talked about signing bonuses for critical areas because we've never had the dollars to do it."

Gleason added that he didn't want the money to be earmarked as "salary and benefits" because it could be misleading for existing staff.

Representatives from the Steamboat Springs Education Association, the district's teachers union, declined to comment about plans for the override mill levy.

The override is expected to generate $600,000 in its first year. That total would increase incrementally until 2015, when it would cap at $800,000.

Initially, the board pushed the mill levy override as a way to "attract and retain" quality teachers and staff, but there was a perception that the phrase was too vague.

Still, board member John DeVincentis, the former principal at Strawberry Park Elementary School, said the problem of attracting and retaining quality teachers is a reality in Steamboat.

"The important thing is to have money set aside to maintain our salaries in the future," he said.

Howell said the district currently uses 80 percent of its budget on salaries and benefits for existing staff.

The district also is asking voters to approve a nearly $30 million bond issue to replace Soda Creek Elementary School and expand and renovate Strawberry Park Elementary School.

- To reach Melinda Mawdsley, call 871-4208 or e-mail mmawdsley@steamboatpilot.com

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