Fund Board mulls tax renewal

Half-cent sales tax may appear on November ballot

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— Members of the Education Fund Board and the Steamboat Springs School Board overwhelmingly support asking voters to renew the half-cent sales tax on November's ballot.

But questions have been raised regarding the final ballot language.

The Education Fund Board oversees proceeds from a half-cent sales tax in Steamboat Springs. The money - about $2 million per year - generally is distributed in the form of gifts to the Steam-boat Springs School District.

Some think the tax should be less than half a cent on the dollar. Most members present at Monday's joint retreat of the two boards supported the half-cent sales tax because of the unpredictability of future district expenses. But others see the chance to lower it.

"There may be an opportunity to reduce the amount," said Fund Board member Tom Ptach. "I'm not suggesting at this time we reduce it, but we should give it consideration."

There also were members present who had differing opinions about the duration of the half-cent sales tax, which initially was passed by Steamboat Springs voters in 1993 and is set to expire on Dec. 31, 2009.

Steamboat voters previously have renewed the half-cent sales tax. School Board and Fund Board members indicated they are comfortable asking for an extension of between six and 10 years, but the most popular number was an eight-year renewal.

Several of the projects the Fund Board supports need multi-year funding.

Also on Monday, the Fund Board and School Board members discussed the availability of half-cent sales tax money for the Hayden and South Routt school districts.

Routt County's other two public school systems have been excluded from having half-cent sales tax funds, although district grant writer Lane Malone, whose position is funded by the Fund Board through the half-cent sales tax, works for all three districts.

"I think we need to make sure we clarify through some survey who exactly will benefit from these funds," said Fund Board and School Board member Jerry Kozatch. "If this survey shows overwhelmingly that we should include other districts, so be it. If the survey shows to only support Steamboat Springs schools, we should make that clear in the language."

Staging a district-wide survey likely will be the next step for the Fund Board and School Board. Surveys held before the 2006 election indicated strong public support for the half-cent sales tax, Superintendent Donna Howell said.

The Fund Board can pay for as many surveys as it deems necessary until the Fund Board votes to put an initiative on the 2007 ballot

The Fund Board discussed forming a subcommittee to gather information and answer all questions or concerns before a final decision is made on a November 2007 ballot initiative regarding the half-cent sales tax.

But a majority of Fund Board and School Board members present at Monday's retreat felt now is the time to ask voters to support a half-cent sales tax, which supports small class size, technological advancements and other educational and capital improvements the district wants or needs without using its general operating fund.

Some people at Monday's meeting were concerned Steam-boat taxpayers may have grown tired of being taxed. The district recently passed a $29.7 million bond initiative and a mill levy override for facilities and staff pay, respectively.

"I think we will hear people complain because of the bond issue, but it may have gotten people thinking about education in our community," Capital Commission member Kristi Brown said.

- To reach Melinda Mawdsley call 871-4208

or e-mail mmawdsley@steamboatpilot.com

Comments

another_local 7 years, 7 months ago

We should only consider spending the tax money outside the district if the towns of Hayden, Oak Creek etc also pass an identical tax and contribute those funds to the fund board as well. (Perhaps make the tax a county issue rather that city? Is that possible?)

I would much rather pay a sales tax for education than one for affordable housing. I was educated with public money, my parents and my children are/were educated with public money... nobody helped us buy our home. Taxes for public housing are B.S.

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