Our View: Sharing tax dollars

At Issue: Half-cent sales tax for education

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— We can't blame school administrators in Hayden and South Routt for seeking a portion of revenues from Steamboat Springs' half-cent sales tax for education. We would do the same thing if we were in their shoes.

We think there can be a stronger regional approach to programs paid for with sales-tax funds, but it's hard to see a day when funds are distributed proportionately to all three school districts.

The half-cent sales tax for education was implemented in 1993 in the city limits of Steamboat Springs. Since that initial year, the revenues produced by the tax have grown immensely - to a projected $2.7 million this year. So too has the Steamboat Springs School District's reliance on the funds.

The funds are administered by the Education Fund Board, which gifts the money to the School Board. The tax is not applied anywhere else in the county, a frequently used argument for keeping the money in Steamboat Springs.

Note that the Fund Board pays for a grant writer who helps Hayden and Soroco. Historically, the Fund Board has been unwilling to do much more. In fact, as recently as 2005, Soroco approached Steamboat about sharing in Fund Board revenues. The board responded by passing a resolution supporting keeping the tax dollars focused on Steamboat students.

It would be good if Hayden or Oak Creek could simply pass its own half-cent sales tax for education, but each is already at the maximum the state allows a statutory town. Routt County cannot pass a sales tax increase to support public schools.

Hayden Superintendent Mike Luppes and Soroco Superintendent Kelly Reed make the point that residents of their communities do a significant amount of shopping in Steamboat Springs, thus contributing significantly to the sales tax proceeds. That's probably true, but if you extend that argument to all Steamboat visitors, the Education Fund Board dollars would have to be shared with schools in Dallas, Houston, Chicago and New York.

We understand the Fund Board's hesitancy. The political reality is the board must get the tax renewed before it expires in 2009 and it will depend strictly on the whim of Steamboat Springs voters. Increasing funds given to Hayden and Soroco isn't exactly a winning strategy in that election.

But certainly the Fund Board can do a better job of contributing to regional projects that would benefit education throughout the county. Some examples would include supporting the construction of the expanded vocational center in Hayden and the regional Yampa Valley Science School program. And perhaps programs funded by the Fund Board can be opened to all students in the county, even if they are based in Steamboat Springs.

Taking such an approach may require a shift in funding priorities, but that is something that has been needed for years anyway. Many have come to the Fund Board with the notion that the Fund Board has millions to distribute each year. In reality, so long as the Fund Board continues to pay for what it has funded historically, the vast majority of Fund Board dollars are committed before the process even starts. In fact, requests are expected to be $1 million more than revenues this year.

In its history the Fund Board has taken in an estimated $23.8 million - a huge boon to the students in the Steamboat Springs School District. The Fund Board should want the programs it funds to extend to more students in the county. But in the short term, it's doubtful that the dollars can be shared to the level Hayden and Soroco want.

Comments

another_local 7 years, 5 months ago

Thank you Scott. Is it possible for these other communities to switch to Home Rule? Also, can the newspaper verify the information from Hammurabi about the discussions back in '93 where the other communities opted out? It would seem to me that this is a relevant part of the discussion.

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another_local 7 years, 5 months ago

Can anyone please explain the 3% cap mentioned in the artical? The city sales tax in Steamboat is 4.5%. If there is a 3% cap, how is that possible?

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Hammurabi 7 years, 5 months ago

It should be noted that when the original sales tax for education was discussed, it was brought to the county and other educational districts to see if county-wide participation was a better way to go. Unfortunately, our commissioners and other districts declined and Steamboat went ahead and approved the tax. Interesting how historical perspective changes the view and sometimes forgets actual events.

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Scott Stanford 7 years, 5 months ago

another_local:

Hayden and Oak Creek are statutory towns, subject to a maximum sales tax of 6.9 percent, according to CRS rules. The state levies a sales tax of 2.9 percent and the county levies 1 percent, for 3.9 percent, leaving 3 percent the towns can assess. Hayden levies a sales tax rate of 4 percent, but that rate was in place before the county sets its sales tax.

Steamboat Springs is a home-rule municipality, meaning it does not have to abide by the 6.9 percent cap.

Scott Stanford Editor, Steamboat Pilot & Today editor@steamboatpilot.com

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Scott Stanford 7 years, 5 months ago

Another_local:

Hammurabi is not the first person to make that statement. I have heard it before, but I can't find any concrete evidence that was the case other than people involved saying it went down that way. My guess is that Oak Creek and Hayden were in the same boat then as they are now - statutory towns that were at the max rate already for sales tax.

I suppose Hayden and Oak Creek could switch to home rule, but it would not be easy - lots of public votes, re-writing of the charter, changing Town Board representation... I think some Colorado towns have tried to do it, mainly because of the sales tax issue. Not sure what the success rate has been.

Scott Stanford Editor, Steamboat Pilot & Today editor@steamboatpilot.com

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whyquestion 7 years, 5 months ago

why does soroco always whine,school board pres got what he wanted for the hockey people???? does he feel if he whines long and hard $$$$s will come to soroco ????? thank you fund board for what you can do within limits of the laws!!!!!what is yampas sales tax any room there for financial help????? thanks to deficit cargo oc has its own financial problems will oc people attend the work session @ twn hall on april 5 th with the auditor?????hey scott how about that brian harvey and his pirate paper his new name for the sheriff STONED WALL JACKSON ???? what does he know that you don't???????

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bluntman 7 years, 5 months ago

QUOTE:

"Hayden Superintendent Mike Luppes and Soroco Superintendent Kelly Reed make the point that residents of their communities do a significant amount of shopping in Steamboat Springs, thus contributing significantly to the sales tax proceeds. That's probably true, but if you extend that argument to all Steamboat visitors, the Education Fund Board dollars would have to be shared with schools in Dallas, Houston, Chicago and New York."

that is a brilliant piece of monkey-logic there, Scott (re: last sentence). way to go.

it should also be pointed out that the RESIDENTS of the outlying communities... (ummm, or shall we now from this day forward be referred to as "visitors" as well?) also do a significant amount of contributing to the S.S. labor pool. you know Scott, the menial, dirty, undesirable jobs like changing beds, scrubbing toilets, waiting tables and driving the valued guests to and from the exalted ski mountain, etc., etc. not exactly the most glamorous jobs to be sure, but certainly many of these other Routt (and Moffat) County RESIDENTS keep the machine well oiled and running smoothly, thus maximizing profits for the shareholders, as well as tax revenues for the city of Steamboat Springs. seems to me that it was not long ago reported that approximately 1100 people per day commute all the way from Craig America to do just that. please correct me if i am wrong. the workers who commute also routinely shop in S.S. out of convenience, not to mention that there are many places to spend their money (i.e. "choices"). it is no great mystery as to why businesses struggle in Oak Creek, Hayden and Craig, and will continue to do so for the forseeable future. the prevailing attitudes of "let them eat cake" and "if you are poor, it is your fault" are at the heart of this issue. by promoting these prejudices along with the false choice of sharing local school tax revenues with schools in Texas and New York, the underlying facts are obfuscated and distorted. grab your dictionary and look up the definition of "greed". it's pretty simple, really. what makes this all the more disgusting, is that by not sharing the revenues, children are being deprived of educational opportunities. the "athletes" who are priveleged enough to attend SSHS get to practice and play on an artificial turf ball field, something that many (if not most) colleges do not have. (before everyone turns this into a flame-fest, yes, i am aware that much of the funding was secured from private sources.) but then again, when was the last time anyone made a donation to the other schools that obviously are not quite as needy as the ones in Steamboat Springs?

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bluntman 7 years, 5 months ago

hmmmm.... what i would suggest (for starters) beyond the reasonable and logical sharing of revenues, would be a direct-to-consumer refund of the regressive taxes collected on food items at the grocery stores. this would be easily accomplished once a year when residents of Routt or Moffat counties tally up expenditures based upon the data capture on their City Market and Safeway "Value Cards". then maybe, just maybe, a little bit of old-fashioned sharing of the pie. it wouldn't hurt a bit. because down here in the Occupied Territories, we sure know it's sweet. tell you what, Scott.

bluntman

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thecondoguy1 7 years, 5 months ago

so bluntman, should the folks from Dallas, Chicago, Houston, and New York recieve a consumer refund as well? How about the folks from Maybell? Maybe we should just consult you and have you chose in your judgement who should receive this refund. Question for you , if you are "poor"............who's fault is it?

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Matthew Stoddard 7 years, 5 months ago

Condoguy- people in OC or Hayden don't exactly have the choice of not coming to Steamboat to shop. They live there for affordability and shop here because they'd have to drive farther in a different direction a lot of times. Hayden can at least go to Craig just as easily to shop, at least, but still have to work here since they have the opportunity to make more money in Steamboat. They just have to spend as much, also. By that right, I think they have legitimate claim to tax revenues whereas a tourist doesn't.

Tourists are here on vacation and an individual tourist doesn't supply tax revenue close to 365 days a year. A week, maybe, but not as much as an individual living in the communities that provide a large portion of Steamboat's working population. This is comparing individual to individual; not tourists to locals in general. Locals know the best deals are in Silverthorne!

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thecondoguy1 7 years, 5 months ago

kielbasa, the revenue sharing option was defeated by the others in the county, I don't know why, but they had the opportunity at one time. I am a Walmart, Safeway feind myself, but see a lot of Steamboat folks down at the Costco in Superior, I doubt they will be refunding any tax dollars anytime soon. again, you can use my facilities anytime ol buddy,,, bring beer........

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Matthew Stoddard 7 years, 5 months ago

True, condoguy1, but I'd like to see the wealth spread "for the sake of the children" as all politicians seem to say. If it would actually make a decent amount of money, I'd love to see OC and Hayden implement their own tax for their schools. Since a lot of them come to Steamboat for everyday items, I don't think that will help as much as they could use.

My wife and I, personally, do major shopping trips to Silverthorne or Denver. For us, it's a way to get out of town for a day or 2, and get stuff along the way. That negates the comments of, "Well, what you saved, you spent in gas." That doesn't apply if we were able to call it a weekend away from home.

And I'll bring you the beer, but I have to do the non-alcoholic stuff. Can't do stuff like O'Douls or I'll be using the facilities every 5 minutes. That'd just "piss" me off! LOL!

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upstream 7 years, 5 months ago

Well articulated, Senor Bluntman (as per usual). Yet another reminder to all of us in South Routt that we need to be spending our extremely hard earned cash right here in town... Yeah, prescriptions may cost a few more bucks @ David's and beer a few more bucks @ Spiro's, bike parts @ few more bucks @ Dave's, Hardware and lumber @ Material Guys, Milk a few more cents @ Leonard's and gas a few more cents @ the local Sinclair...but the sales tax becomes ours- for our schools and our library (ergo, our children and our future). So, tell me, isn't it really costing us MORE to not shop here? I believe one day the overly endowed of Steamboat will realize the tremendous value of supporting the struggling schools in the rest of the county and investing in quality affordable housing in the rest of the county (Afterall, doesn't the economic development council keep harping on our new "regional economy" and how badly Steamboat will need the human resources provided by Hayden, Craig and the OC? Hmmm...and what will the almighty Steamboat have to offer us? Permanent 'visitor' status? Gag.). Until then- I believe in the power of self help and economic self-determination. Shop locally, show your local pride and become a part of the local solution! Maybe one day we can create enough jobs out here that none of us has to drive into Steamboat for anything...sweet.

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thecondoguy1 7 years, 5 months ago

due to circumstances beyond my control, I am the master of my fate, and the captian of my soul................ and........there ain't no better pizza than Dinty Moore.

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kingsride 7 years, 5 months ago

Good call Condo guy. Dintys is one of my favorites as well. Only problem is last two times I drove to Oak Creek to eat there..they were closed. Hours have been hit or miss for me. I ll call before I make the drive again. Hmm, seems like I had the same experience with Chelseas......

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