Fund Board eyes ballot

City Council must approve tax renewal question

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— The Education Fund Board is ready to move forward with a November vote to extend Steamboat Springs' half-cent sales tax for education. Now it's up to the Steamboat Springs City Council to approve such a ballot measure.

Fund Board members unanimously approved a request Wednesday night to ask the City Council to call a vote on renewing the sales tax. Details of the plan will remain unsettled until a conference with the council.

At issue is a sharing agreement that would potentially allow other Routt County schools to draw upon the fund. Revenues from the sales tax typically go to the Steamboat Springs School District.

A committee from the Fund Board will go before the City Council on Tuesday to discuss the issue and potentially decide on wording for the ballot initiative.

The Fund Board is a volunteer group that administers the sales tax revenue, which now generates more than $3 million a year for local education programs. Steamboat voters first approved the tax in 1993, and this year the Fund Board will allocate more than $4.4 million to school district programs, salaries and capital projects. The tax is active until December 2009; the proposed renewal would extend it for 10 more years.

Questions raised during Wednesday's Fund Board meeting included how money would be allocated between county school districts, whether early childhood or private schools could receive funding and whether other districts will be represented on the Fund Board.

"I do think we need to maintain a primary relationship with the Steamboat school district," Fund Board member Jim Kurowski said.

The Fund Board in March supported the notion of sharing revenue with neighboring school districts, but details remain unclear.

Although the Fund Board can request any initiative, the language of the bill eventually will be decided by the City Council.

Tom Ptach, Fund Board president, said he would prefer other schools be allowed to request funds without having a set budget for each district.

"I would like to see them at the table, but I don't think we can fund anything today," he said. "Over the 10 years, let's work into (sharing the funds)."

School Board Vice President Denise Connelly echoed Ptach's statement and said parents in Steamboat were asked to pay for all-day kindergarten this year, while other districts pay for all-day kindergarten through their budget.

Fund Board members also debated the possibility of allowing voters to decide whether the money is shared or kept within Steamboat by including that question on the ballot.

"Sharing money with our neighbors will be the biggest issue of this campaign, and I will not be comfortable with language that is vague," Fund Board member Kristi Brown said.

Officials from the South Routt and Hayden school districts have lobbied off and on for years to receive some of the revenues from the sales tax. Advocates for sharing say South Routt and Hayden residents contribute significantly to Steamboat's tax base and that their kids should be able to benefit from those dollars.

Previous Fund Boards have resisted sharing the sales tax revenues because that's not what Steamboat voters were asked to approve in the 1993, 1996 and 1999 elections. The Fund Board has paid the salary of a grants writer who works for all three county school districts.

Comments

another_local 6 years, 1 month ago

One benefit of the sales tax is that local people only pay about half of it. Due unfair structure of property taxes, the burden of payment is shifted unfairly to small businesses. many people seem to think that property tax will hit second home owners but the facts are that for every dollar collected in property tax only about 20 cents comes from 2nd home owners, 25 cents from "locals" and 55 cents from small businesses.

This tax has worked well and has served our school districts now for 15 years. The difficulties the district has experienced over the last couple of years are not related to this tax and in fact, not related to irresponsible spending. To cut off this important resource because you disagree with how a small portion of it was spent or not spent is absurd.

We would have had about 15 fewer teachers, 80% less computers, no 6th grade wing on the middle school and many other losses without it.

The value provided by the grant writer to S routt and Hayden is several times greater than the sales tax contribution those communities make to this fund. Yes, we should share, but it has to make sense.

Please support continuing this tax. We all benefit from having better schools.

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Martha D Young 6 years, 1 month ago

I oppose the continuation of the half-cent sales tax because school funding must come from property taxes only. Property taxes in the Steamboat Springs School District are well below those of other school districts. Why is an increased property tax not being considered? Sales taxes are regressive in that they hit hardest those least able to pay them. Please vote against continuing the half-cent sales tax for school funding.

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housepoor 6 years, 1 month ago

With the 1/2 cents sales tax we even allow the dreaded Triple Crown to contribute to our school system..............

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snoman 6 years, 1 month ago

The half cent sales tax is critical to the Con-tinued success of the school district and the children of Steamboat Springs. If the tax goes away, so will elementary class sizes of 18 students or less per class. Secondary class sizes of 20 or less will also disappear. Technology improvements that help keep our students abreast of the ever changing information age will disappear. Marthalee, your idea of a property tax increase is interesting, but, the state of colorado and the taxpayer approved TABOR issue make it impossible to raise any property tax for the benefit of education. In the name of "equity" the state determines how much property tax can be collected per enrolled student. Local districts are unabe to change that. I agree that we pay less property tax in colorado than most states, which is why colorado schools are often ranked 49th in the states for funding. The half cent sales tax was an incredibly ingeneous way of raising additional funds for our students on a local level and it has proven valuable in our current ranking in the state for student achievement. People shoud not kid themselves, the amount of money that a district has does make a difference in the achievemnet of our students, our children! Not that money is the only key to success of a district and its students but if you look at districts across the country, those who achieve the highest also spend the most.

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untamedShrewd 6 years, 1 month ago

My kids and other kids, plus the teachers have all benefited from the Half Cent Sales tax. Yeah, I'm often broke, but the Half Cent Sales tax is not the cause of it. Several successful programs began with the Half Cent Sales tax: Elementary Spanish program, maintaining small class size, purchasing updated equipment such as computers for staff and classes, etc. The vote against the Playground Fund was not against supporting the Playground, instead it was about tapping into the Fund Board Reserves. The percentage to be gifted for the past year had already been gifted. The FB calculates a percentage to spend each year and must also maintain a reserve for emergencies or incase the Half Cent Sales tax doesn't pass in elections. If the tax loses in an upcoming election, the reserves exist to maintain the quality provided by the tax for a few years as we may have to scramble to find other ways to fund programs, technology, and structure. I do believe there may be some quirks to work out. But as with any program, it improves as challenges arise. Maybe some provisions will allow it to include all of Routt County, not just the Stmbt Spgs school district. In any case, I will be voting Yes for the Half Cent Sales tax.

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portagetheyampa 6 years, 1 month ago

I am very tired of the RE-2 School District greedily keeping all the money. There is no reason why it can't be shared, in equal thirds with RE1 and RE3. If that does not happen, I will not support continuation of this tax.

RE-2 has always been the wealthiest school district in Routt County. That they are so stingy with this money makes me sick!!

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MtnWarlock 6 years, 1 month ago

portagetheyampa, The tax is a city tax! If you want to rebel or protest, just stop shopping in town! The half cent sales tax is a city tax approved by city voters or those residence of Steamboat Springs, to my understanding. RE-1 and 3 needs to mimic Steamboat taxation to get the piece of the pie! I would support it! It's for kids! Maybe those districts want to put up with all the tourists in their communities as well! Theres always a price to pay, some want the benefits but, they never want to pay for it!

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