Fund Board approves budget

Long-term reserves will be used to meet education needs

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— The Education Fund Board approved a budget of more than $3 million for next year, meaning the board will have to dip into its long-term reserve.

Projected half-cent sales tax revenues for 2007-08 are approximately $2.7 million, which is an all-time high since the education tax's inception in 1993.

Initial funding requests for this year's budgeting process were $3.7 million, but a majority of Fund Board members were not comfortable spending nearly $1 million more than the projected sales tax revenue.

Instead, the Fund Board approved, 7-2, shaving 10 percent from the capital, educational excellence and technology commissions' initial budget requests to bring the Fund Board budget closer to its projected revenue.

The Fund Board also approved eliminating the $200,000 annual short-term reserve, which was money the Fund Board was setting aside annually as emergency funding.

"I'm one who has wanted to spend down the reserve anyway," Fund Board and School Board member Jerry Kozatch said.

Currently, the Fund Board has $2.15 million in reserves. The approval of Wednesday's budget means the Fund Board likely will have a long-term reserve of $1.675 million after the 2007-08 school year.

The reason for the lofty budget for this year's Fund Board was a substantial increase in requests from the Technology Commission, which had requested $1.37 million for an overhaul of the district's hardware and software.

Fund Board members said ensuring the technology needs of the district are met is a priority this year.

Fund Board member Harry Lambart was concerned if the district didn't provide the Technology Commission with the funding it needed to complete its projects, the Fund Board would be wasting money making corrections in the years ahead.

Longtime Fund Board and School Board member Pat Gleason agreed.

"We finally have an avenue where we will be able to move forward in a positive direction," Gleason said. "I think I see an end, after 10 years, to the process."

In the years ahead, the high upfront costs of technology projects are expected to decrease and actually save the district money, Gleason added.

The Fund Board is allocating $1.27 million to the Technology Commission; $1.476 million to the Educational Excellence Commission; $440,000 to the Capital Commission and $30,000 for Fund Board administrative costs.

Educational Excellence offers funding for small-class size and educational programs, among other areas. Capital Commission funds capital projects such as the Steamboat Springs Middle School expansion.

The three commissions will meet in the months ahead to prioritize items for the 2007-08 school year. Each commission has presented its initial readings to the Fund Board, but has to present a second reading before a final approval.

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