Kandise Gilbertson, a learning support specialist, fills out paperwork at Steamboat Springs Middle School on Wednesday afternoon. The middle school is hoping the Steamboat Springs Education Fund Board will provide money needed to move the offices to the front of the school, improving security and safety concerns.

Photo by John F. Russell

Kandise Gilbertson, a learning support specialist, fills out paperwork at Steamboat Springs Middle School on Wednesday afternoon. The middle school is hoping the Steamboat Springs Education Fund Board will provide money needed to move the offices to the front of the school, improving security and safety concerns.

Fund Board ponders appeals

'Universal Playgrounds,' middle school expansion get support


— Education Fund Board members expressed support Wednesday for replacing the aging, wooden playground at Strawberry Park Elementary School with a playground accessible to children with disabilities.

Whether the Fund Board, which administers the city's half-cent sales tax for education, can afford granting the full $250,000 request from Julie Taulman and Shelly St. Pierre, parents of children with disabilities who are spearheading the project, remains in doubt.

Taulman and St. Pierre hope to build "universal playgrounds" at Soda Creek and Strawberry Park elementary schools. Such playgrounds are designed to accommodate children with mental and physical disabilities as well as able-bodied children, who won't notice the differences from typical jungle gyms.

Fund Board members Robin Crossan and Mike Loomis said they were concerned that the proposal, which was presented for first reading Wednesday night, dipped into the Fund Board's reserve fund, rather than general fund.

Crossan said she was unsure whether the Fund Board should spend large reserve funds until renewal of the half-cent sales tax is resolved. The Fund Board plans to present the sales tax to voters for renewal in November 2008. The tax expires Dec. 31, 2009, if voters reject the renewal.

Fund Board Member Ann Barbier, who presented the playground project on behalf of the Capital Commission, said she thought it was a good opportunity to use reserve funds.

"We had that big building use tax surplus that came in the fall, as well as the fact that our reserves are $2.9 million," she said. "It was my impression that the (Fund Board) was trying to cut down on the reserves, and now they are even higher than they were last year."

The Fund Board is divided into three commissions that address capital, technology and educational excellence needs.

The Capital Commission also presented for first readings to the Fund Board - a $1.5 million request to complete the Steamboat Springs Middle School expansion project, $125,000 to mach a school security grant, and $80,000 to fund a grant writer for the Steamboat Springs, Hayden and South Routt school districts.

Fund Board Member Julie Ernst presented the middle school funding request, arguing that the building administrative offices to the front of the building will enhance student safety and comply with the district's strategic plan and facility audit.

The Fund Board previously awarded the middle school project $1.25 million, but because of escalating construction costs and the lack of competitive bids, the project stalled after initial groundwork was completed.

"We shouldn't leave what we started unfinished," Ernst said.

Middle School Principal Tim Bishop said the project would increase security at the school, by monitoring who enters and the leaves the school, and academics with the addition of more classroom and support staff space.

The Fund Board next meets Feb. 6, when additional funding requests will receive a first reading. Taulman and Bishop hope their requests receive a second reading to move their projects one step closer to fruition.

"We are going to do these playgrounds whether you give us money or not," Taulman said. "But what you contribute may benefit the whole community for the next 20 to 25 years."

- To reach Mike McCollum, call 871-4208

or e-mail mmccollum@steamboatpilot.com


another_local 9 years, 3 months ago

Reducing the reserves before the tax renewal passes on the ballot is nuts. Wait until the issue succeeds and then consider using some of the reserve. In the mean time save at least a full year's worth to give the district that long to figure out how to deal with the loss of the funding source should the ballot issue fail. It is just the responsible thing to do.


colowoodsman 9 years, 3 months ago

Wasn't THIS playground equipment supposed to last '20 to 25 years' ? And wasn't IT supposed to be accessable to all students including handicapped? $250,000 is alot of money for a swing set.


addlip2U 9 years, 3 months ago

Was Fund Board member Robin Crossan to step down once she became member/president of the School Board?


dogdog 9 years, 3 months ago

The play structure DID last 20 years, or almost. And yes, they are expensive. And this is no swing set. This is a place for 550 kids to play, and a safe play structure costs money. The district has the money. Please ask for a financial statement that truly shows their reserve. Don't accept verbal numbers. The community would be AMAZED what is locked up in the bank. Millions and millions and millions. And the idea that the district needs this for cash flow is just not true. But that's what you get when ask.


letomayo 9 years, 3 months ago

there are not millions and millions in the reserve as I understand it. I heard that it was about 1.5M. it is not enough to maintain teachers currently hired thru those funds. The playground is 23 years old this year. it was built in the spring of 1985.

I was told Robin Crossan was asked if it was politically correct for the board pres. to be on the EFB. She wanted to maintain her presidency on both the board and the EFB. she resigned as president of the EFB but stayed on. It does seem like a conflict, but I think it may depend on how much clout she maintains on the EFB and if the current president is a figurehead for her. it would be better for the tax election if she stepped down from the EFB.


another_local 9 years, 3 months ago

Much as I respect Robin she really should step down from EFB. The district has historically tried to maintain too much control over these COMMUNITY funds. These funds are for gifts to the district from the community. Yes, the community should seek to give things that the district wants and needs, but in the end this is community money not district money. The should be give and take where the district responds to what the community is asking for and offering to pay for with these gifts.

Robin is now a district representative.


snoman 9 years, 3 months ago

I think dogdog is confusing two different reserves! There is an EFB reserve and also a school district general fund reserve. Although the CFO of the district wont call it that. The EFB reserve is much lower than the school districts, which by audit reports in the past was growing by a substantial amount each year and numbered between 10 million and 11 milion dollars.

The universal playground idea is a great concept and needs to be built. There will need to be much more discussion of funding mechanisms but if the district can fund $250,000, with the community also providing some funding, for an artificial turf field at the high school then they should DEFINITELY find a way to fund needs for ALL elementary students.


dogdog 9 years, 3 months ago

Sorry, for the confusion. I was not referring to the EFB. (I stated the school district had the money, not the EFB.) The school district has the money to both finish the middle school and do the playground. What the heck is the distict doing with 11 million in reserves when there are definite student and safety needs. A prudent reserves is about 20% of operatings expenses. 11 million is crazy. Someone needs to challenge the board. I am currently not residing in Steamboat, or it would be me.


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