Our View: No need for PR spin

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At Issue

Fund Board decision to

hire public

relations firm

Our View

We support

the half-cent

sales tax for

education, but we question the necessity and appropriateness of hiring a

PR firm using

taxpayers' money

The urgency and initiative shown by Steamboat Springs Education Fund Board members in their efforts to extend the city's half-cent sales tax for education are commendable. However, the Fund Board's decision last week to hire a Denver public relations firm to market the tax to local voters was disappointing and, we fear, could work against them.

On Oct. 3, Fund Board members voted to begin negotiating a contract with Peggy Gonder of the Denver-based PR firm Gonder and Associates. It is estimated Gonder's services will cost taxpayers $60,000.

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

"People wouldn't know if there wasn't somebody helping to sell a story," she told Fund Board members. "When you think about it, a lot of school districts have full-time PR people."

The problem is that the Fund Board isn't part of the school district - in fact, legally there has to be a clear separation between the two - and selling stories isn't a Fund Board mission.

Rather, the Fund Board is a volunteer group of residents that oversees revenues from the city's half-cent sales tax for education. The tax was first approved by voters in 1993 and then renewed in 1996 and 1999. It sunsets at the end of 2009.

The sales tax now generates more than $3 million a year for Steamboat Springs School District programs. Throughout the years, revenues from the sales tax have been used for such things as an elementary Spanish program, additional teachers to reduce class sizes, school computers and a Steamboat Springs Middle School expansion.

We fully support the half-cent sales tax and what it has provided for public education in Steamboat Springs, but we don't think the residents of Steamboat need a Denver PR firm to convince them of that. What voters need is a straightforward, unbiased look at the history of the tax and what it has funded. We think Fund Board members and half-cent sales tax supporters are very capable of carrying out that task.

It also feels inappropriate for the Fund Board to use tax revenues to pay for a PR campaign to sway the voters who paid those taxes in the first place.

Ultimately, Fund Board members are right to be deliberate in their efforts to win approval of the tax extension, but paying $60,000 to an outside firm will be construed by some as an inappropriate use of revenues, particularly given the level of disappointment with the School Board's recent decision to spend nearly $300,000 to buy out former superintendent Donna Howell's contract. It would be a shame if funds spent to promote the Fund Board actually created a backlash against a tax that has done so much for our schools.

Comments

dimwitiguess 7 years, 2 months ago

Had to throw in Howell which has nothing to do with this issue. Typical Pilot misdirection play and another attempt to badmouth this board before the election.

I am not in favor of the fund board spending money on PR. Let the people vote against the 1/2• sales tax and watch what happens to your kids' education: - At least 23 teachers gone, - Spanish in elementary gone, - grant writer gone (she helps Hayden and South Routt as well), - staff development gone, - capital improvements (i.e. add-on to MS funded totally by EFB) gone, - the latest technology for education gone.

A vote against the 1/2• sales tax is your choice and it's your kids. Want to shoot yourself in the foot and kiss your kids' quality education goodbye? Go ahead and vote against it.

No PR is needed, on this the Pilot is correct. You just need to be aware of what your CHILDREN WILL LOSE.

Dump the PR effort. It's just confusing the issue with the Pilot's "fair and balanced" reporting and editorials.

There are SOLID REASONS to keep the 1/2• tax. But what do I know? I'm just a dimwitiguess.

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Carrie Requist 7 years, 2 months ago

I think it would be irresponsible of the Fund Board NOT to do a quality community education campaign prior to putting the half cent sales tax up for a renewal vote.

This money is vital to fund many important programs and staff throughout the school district and to have it voted down out of ignorance would be a disaster.

It is my understanding that the Fund Board did a community survey that said that the community did not understand the half cent tax and what it is used for. This is a huge red flag for getting the half cent tax re-approved.

You say that the Fund Board members and half-cent sales tax supporters are "very capable" of providing the necessary community education. They, clearly, don't agree and they are in the better position to judge. The stakes are too high here for the quality of education in this district to mess around and jeopardize the funds.

If the paper is so against the fund board paying for professional services for community education about the half-cent sales tax, then maybe the paper should be offering those services to the Fund Board for the good of the community. You can write articles providing the "straightforward, unbiased look at the history of the tax and what it has funded" and you can offer your website services to the Fund Board for no cost. THAT would be a community service.

But to denounce these volunteers for responding to the information that this vital tax is not well understood by the community by deciding to do a professional information campaign instead of an ad-hoc one is irresponsible of the Pilot and Today.

If they capitulate to your pressure and don't hire the PR firm and don't set up the website and just try to do off the cuff education and the tax fails, will the Pilot and Today be supplying the lost funds to the district?

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fishy 7 years, 2 months ago

mike lawrence, city editor: i see where you removed inappropriate comments from another article - and you stated, "personal attacks of any kind cannot be allowed in this forum" and "please focus your comments on ideas and opinions about issues relevant to the community."

well, i'm tired of this bizarre principallysent character attacking connelly, a lovely lady I've worked with before who has given generously of her time and talent. and this article was about the fund board not the school board. i wonder how much time ps has spent volunteering to make our schools better? i'm sure anyone who reads these comments much has learned to ignore ps. but if any comments need to be removed according to your policy, it's her/his vengeful rantings.

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sturn 7 years, 2 months ago

Wow, have I missed something? I thought this was about hiring a PR firm for $60,000 ($60,000 / how many teachers are there...xmas bonus?) to educate all of us dumb voters on how the half cent tax works to our benefit. I agree with the editor on this one.

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dimwitiguess 7 years, 2 months ago

Carrie is starting to get the point with the Pilot and its editors and its phony, placated "editorial staff". We know who decides in the end. Standford, Schlict, and Boyer. I hoped Boyer would be an improvement, but that leaves Schlict who is still the same and still pulling the strings? The Pilot editorials take the same tack. PS is certainly not making any new fans. When you spew, you can get some on yourself too. Sure, PS, I know, I'm just a dimwit - iguess?

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bikegirl 7 years, 2 months ago

JQ_Well said. The notion of paying a pr firm just does not make sense.

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Sunnydays 7 years, 2 months ago

$60,000 is one or two additional teachers, or a whole bunch of laptops, or a spanish program, or another G&T teacher, or a music program etc.... This PR campaign is a waste of money and should be stopped before it is even started. The purpose of a community board is so the members of the board who are part of the community can let people know what is going on.

Steamboat's success lies heavily on the dollars made available from the fund board. Without it, the school district will struggle. This board and prior boards have in a large part been ineffective, but were able to throw money into the school district because of the 1/2% sales tax. Without it this district will flounder. The current fund board needs to recognize that this is not play money and should rescind its decision to waste it on a PR campaign when they can probably find people within Steamboat that would volunteer time and dollars to attain the same result.

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JQPUBLIC 7 years, 2 months ago

Let's see..... The fund board takes tax money approved by voters for education in steamboat, pays it to a denver firm, to convince steamboat taxpayers to give them more money for education.... is this the way the taxpayers intended their educational tax dollars be spent?

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another_local 7 years, 2 months ago

60K is one teacher with about 10K left over on average. I agree with the editorial and the other posts; spending money on a PR consultant is wrong. Get out and do the campaign locally. Insist on local media support for covering the issue. Leave those Denver folks at home.

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ijustlookhi 7 years, 2 months ago

The paper could do the issue justice and there would be no need for PR...PR is scary because you don't know if u can trust the agency to just milk the account w/o really caring...just create billabler hrs...oops theres $60k gone..but its a challenge because in a way you do need to get the information out....

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