Fund Board plans PR blitz

Officials concerned about voters supporting education tax renewal

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Sixth-grader Cole Wendland leaves through the front entrance of Steamboat Springs Middle School on Wednesday afternoon after classes let out for the day. An improvement to the entrance of the middle school is one of several funding gifts being considered by the city's Education Fund Board.

— Members of the Education Fund Board aren't taking any chances when it comes to getting voter approval to extend Steamboat Springs' half-cent sales tax for education. On Wednesday, Fund Board members agreed to hire a public relations firm to help market the future tax renewal question, which likely will be put to voters in 2008 or 2009.

First passed in 1993 and later extended by voters in 1996 and 1999, the city's half-cent sales tax generates more than $2 million a year for educational programs and projects. Almost all of those funds are gifted to the Steamboat Springs School District.

Throughout the years, the tax revenues have allowed the district to hire extra teachers to keep class sizes small, purchase computers, offer an elementary Spanish program, and hire a director of curriculum and instruction, among many other programs.

"What we are really trying to do is let the community know about all the great stuff we are doing," former Fund Board member and current School Board member Jerry Kozatch said Wednesday.

The sales tax sunsets at the end of 2009, and Fund Board members hope voters extend the tax during the 2008 or 2009 elections. A Hill Research Consultants poll conducted in April revealed that 58 percent of respondents said they would vote against renewing the tax.

"Without proper education out there, it is going to fail," Fund Board member Tom Ptach said. "There is a strong adversity to this out there."

The Fund Board on Wednesday agreed to begin negotiating with Peggy Gonder of Denver-based public relations firm Gonder and Associates to lead the community outreach efforts.

Fund Board member Michael Loomis cast the sole 'no' vote opposing the negotiations.

Some Fund Board members questioned whether sales tax dollars can be used to fund administrative costs that are not related to education. Gonder said informing the public about the tax and its benefits falls under the district's educational mission.

"People wouldn't know if there wasn't somebody helping to sell a story," she said. "When you think about it, a lot of school districts have full-time PR people. Some of what PR does is provide resources on where to go if your kids need help."

Gonder told board members she has a three-step approach toward getting the message out about the sales tax: conducting research, developing a public relations plan and implementing communication strategies.

Her services would include developing PowerPoint presentations to show community groups, conducting focus groups and providing content for a soon-to-be developed Fund Board Web site.

"If you are thinking of a short-term investment that would greatly improve your chances of keeping this wonderful resource, the return of investment for $60,000 would be pretty good," said Gonder, who noted her estimated fee is about 3 percent of the sales tax's annual revenue.

The $60,000 figure is an estimate that includes payment for Gonder's firm - the payment amount is under negotiation - costs for an additional citywide survey, and the development of a Web site promoting the Fund Board.

A low bid of $2,000 and a high bid of $8,000 have been submitted for Web site designs, Fund Board President Robin Crossan said. Selection of a bid has not yet occurred.

Interim Superintendent Sandra Smyser said she was impressed with Gonder's emphasis on using focus groups to find the pulse of various voting groups.

"The fact is, we have seriously different constituent groups that are going to be voting on this," Smyser said. "Meeting with different groups to see what our message is going to be is key."

- To reach Mike McCollum, call 871-4208

or e-mail mmccollum@steamboatpilot.com

Comments

Sunnydays 7 years, 2 months ago

Is this even legal? Using tax dollars to support the campaign to attain more tax dollars. Doesn't the white house get in trouble when it uses its phones and resources to support the President's election. It seems the same would apply here. As much as I support the sales tax for education, this stinks...

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dimwitiguess 7 years, 2 months ago

This is costing the district nothing, PS. It is the fund board that is making the decision on the cost etc. The fund board is completely separate from the school board and is independent, Sunny, so it is legal to use their funds that way if they want. Personally, I think it is unnecessary for reasons I site later.

If you think the district is having problems for mismanagement of funds then you need to blame the former supt. and the dir of finance. The school board has followed their recommnedations for years. Money paid to Howell was put away by the former board, which I believe was mismanagement of funds delegated and taken away from spending on essential items. (oh, and let's not forget the one year $457,000 pay for performance and nearly $1M dollars over the previous years boondoggle Simms and the old board brought us.)

The tax is not beneficial to you PS. It IS beneficial to our children.

If you think you'll hurt the school board or any one member by voting against the 1/2 cent sales tax, then you can count on class sizes in the upper 20s to lower thirties unless you are willing to give up some of the costly administrative costs to save a few teachers for our children. The 1/2 cent also built on the additional wing on the Middle School without additional tax dollars, provides Spanish in the elementary schools, staff training, technology, Gifted and Talented, etc.

You kiss the half cent goodbye, you can kiss this district goodbye and send it back to the dark ages in education.

Sunny, you need to study the district and fund board a little more before you start ranting about something you know nada about.

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mtmist 7 years, 2 months ago

I agree with the continuation of the tax to support the education community..IF..a fair share is provided to the North Routt Community Charter School in Clark. This excellent school began 5 years ago with a handful of students and now has 50, in the same buildings. There are now 5 teachers and Colleen Poole, the director and the students and North Routt community are thriving from their contrbutions. Let's hope NRCCS is financially supported to the same degree the other schools are in the entire community!!

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living42day 7 years, 2 months ago

I look forward to evaluating the continuation of the .5 cent tax based on a presentation of the facts on the effectiveness of the funding. I don't need a PR firm to give me facts and the notion that our tax money would be spent to convince me of this bothers me immensely. Keep in mind that this tax and gifts to/from the foundation are a workaround the school finance act and has always been questionable constitutionalty. if it were to go away it would only put us on the same funding level as nearly every other district in the state. Maybe not quite as good as we would like to see it but hardly dark ages.

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Slapper 7 years, 2 months ago

mtmist-there must be others who are just a good that would like a "fair share" too. This will probably pass again but unless "sharing" is written into the language forget about it.

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Routty2007 7 years, 2 months ago

What is the PR firms Web address? Did any local firms bid on this?

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WZ4EVER 7 years, 2 months ago

South and West Routt should get a share of this too...they spend money in SBS and don't get anything out of their spending for their own schools. It's always seemed unfair that these communities pay to support Steamboat Schools and get nothing for their own, even though they are "poorer" areas than Steamboat.

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Slapper 7 years, 2 months ago

it's not as simple as them just sharing as i used to think until recently. there was a long involved process before this was put to the voters some 30 mil dollars ago. it's my understanding that during this process the other school districts participation could have been better which possibly may have resulted in something other than what it is now. As it is now the funding board can not give other districts money. What they did do in south routt is allow their grant writer to assist sr in obtaining over a mil in grants.

In respect to the next vote i believe the wording can be changed so others from outside middle routt could recieve a share of these funds. Whether that happens or not remains to be seen. i hope they will but it probably will not happen.

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bikegirl 7 years, 2 months ago

There is a perception that the school district wastes alot of money,Instead of Kozatch's"great stuff"if the public could see a black and white breakdown of where the money actually goes,people may be more likely to support the tax.Personally I don't think we need to pay a P.R.Firm.

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ggander 7 years, 2 months ago

If the Fund Board members don't believe in their tax enough to present it to voters themselves, then we need a new Fund Board. If the Fund Board spends any of the tax money we have already paid on hiring a PR firm instead of on direct education expense, then they have too much money at their disposal and the tax should not be renewed.

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Routty2007 7 years, 2 months ago

Why not use a local PR firm...if it really required?

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