Wednesday, February 20, 2008
Steamboat Springs Robin Crossan and Denise Connelly said Tuesday their dual membership on the Steamboat Springs School Board and Education Fund Board does not present a conflict of interest and is valuable to both boards.
The Fund Board, which administers the city's half-cent sales tax for education, gifts money to the Steamboat Springs School District. School Board members must accept the gifts. Crossan and Connelly said it's not improper to play the role of giver and receiver.
"It provides a sense of balance of having School Board represented on the Fund Board," Crossan said. "It makes sure that something that doesn't fall within the philosophy of the School Board doesn't get there."
On Feb. 6, Crossan and Connelly - as Fund Board members - voted against gifting up to $250,000 to replace an aging wooden playground at Strawberry Park Elementary School with one that will be accessible to all children, including those with disabilities. The funds also will be used to build a playground at the new Soda Creek Elementary School.
The gift was contingent upon the community group spearheading the playground project matching the Fund Board money with community-raised funds. Crossan said she voted against the gift because there is no assurance the community will match the Fund Board's $250,000, not because she didn't believe in the project.
"The only reason I will vote against this is because I want the community to bring $250,000 toward it," Crossan previously said. "If the community believes in it, then there is a way to raise the money."
Connelly said she voted against the gift for similar reasons.
On Monday, Connelly and Crossan set aside their Fund Board hats, doffed their School Board hats and accepted the $250,000 Fund Board gift for the playground project, despite their votes against the gift as Fund Board members.
Crossan said she approved the gift Monday because the playground project falls within the school district's mission of providing a safe play environment. She said having herself and Connelly represented on both boards also serves as a link between the two entities.
"The (Fund Board) could approve $1 million for a day care facility and send the gift to the school district," she said. "If the school district never had an opportunity to talk about that, how in the world can we accept that gift?"
Connelly said School Board members also serve as a preventive measure to keep the Fund Board from setting school district policy.
"I think we have had in the past a problem that the gifts got all the way to the School Board and were refused because there was a feeling that it would have been setting policy," she said.