Our View: City should share school tax

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Editorial Board, May 2008 to August 2008

  • Bryna Larsen, publisher
  • Brent Boyer, editor
  • Mike Lawrence, city editor
  • Tom Ross, reporter
  • Eric Morris, community representative
  • Paul Draper, community representative

Contact the editorial board at (970) 871-4221 or editor@steamboatpilot.com. Would you like to be a member of the board? Fill out a letter of interest now.

— It would be difficult to overstate the impact Steamboat Springs' half-cent sales tax for education has had on the school district in the 15 years since voters first approved it. From major capital projects to technology in the classroom to an increased number of teachers for the purpose of reducing class sizes, the sales tax undoubtedly has improved the quality of education for thousands of local students.

The tax is scheduled to expire in December 2009, unless voters renew it at the polls this fall or next. That process took a small step forward Wednesday night when the Education Fund Board - the volunteer group that administers revenues from the tax - unanimously agreed to request that the Steamboat Springs City Council put a tax renewal question on this November's ballot.

We hope and assume the City Council will allow voters the opportunity to renew the tax. The more difficult issue for the council will be determining whether and how to ask voters to share half-cent sales tax revenues with neighboring school districts in South Routt and Hayden.

Our support for sharing those revenues is no secret; we've advocated for it many times on this page of the newspaper. The Hayden and South Routt school districts have struggled financially in recent years as declining student enrollment eats into their annual revenues as determined by the state's School Finance Formula. Passing an education sales tax of their own isn't possible; both Hayden and Oak Creek wage the maximum sales tax rate allowable under state law for statutory towns. Steamboat, as a home-rule charter, isn't subject to the same limitations.

More important, our community extends beyond the city limits of Steamboat Springs. Hayden and South Routt residents are part of the work force that drives our resort economy, and they spend portions of their paychecks shopping and dining in Steamboat year-round.

Fund Board President Tom Ptach puts the issue in a clearer perspective:

"The community is bigger than just the city limits of Steamboat Springs," Ptach said. "Our community is Routt County as well. The quality of education across Routt County does have a direct benefit for the people who live within the city limits of Steamboat Springs."

There's little doubt even a small portion of the annual half-cent sales tax revenue - which now pushes $3 million - can go a long way in South Routt and Hayden schools while having a very small impact on what additional programs can be funded in Steamboat.

Of course, there's a risk in asking Steamboat voters to approve a tax that would be shared with Hayden and South Routt schools - namely that it might not pass and thus take those dollars away from Steamboat schools, too.

Perhaps the best way to approach the ballot issue is to ask voters two questions: A basic half-cent sales tax for education renewal question, and a follow-up question that asks whether voters support sharing at least a portion of those revenues with other Routt County school districts.

A committee of Fund Board members will meet Tuesday with the City Council to discuss the ballot issue. We hope council members not only embrace giving voters the opportunity to extend a worthwhile tax, but also a chance to allow those tax dollars to support education efforts countywide.

Comments

Murray Tucker 6 years, 6 months ago

Sales taxes punish low income residents of the county. If the benefit is to be with all of Routt County, the tax should be part of the property tax. The various School Boards need to ask for an increase in the property tax to support the schools.

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skygazer 6 years, 6 months ago

A couple of points. If the sales tax is to be shared, shouldn't it be collected county wide? More importantly, perhaps with the turnover in all school districts it is time to consolidate the county into one district. Maybe representatives on the board from Soroco and Hayden would provide the school board with a new perspectives. I know there has been fear in the past that somehow Steamboat would domninate, but the cost savings of consolidating the administration would provide increased benefits to all schools. Perhaps different school programs could be developed in each high school that would provide greater opportunities to kids who might want to pursue futures in ag, automotive tech, construction, etc.

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OneFly 6 years, 6 months ago

Well written and covers most of the reasons why this tax should be shared.

One that is missing is when parents send their kids to Middle Routt for programs funded by the tax that are not offered in the other districts.

Fund Board President Tom Ptach appears to understands this issue completely so maybe there is a chance these moneys can be spread around as they are all of ours not just for those in the middle.

Many are anxiously waiting for the ballot language to see if it includes the others. That will be a start. What is left then will be if those in Middle Routt care to share any of the windfall of tens of millions of dollars.

Buddy can you spare a dime in these times?

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another_local 6 years, 6 months ago

60408, Property taxes punish small busines people a lot more than a half cent tax hits individuals. The sales tax is majority funded by visitors which a property tax is not. Lastly, it is not possible to pass a property tax for education that produces money that stays in the district thanks to the state regulations on school funding.

The rest of Routt county should find some way of raising funds themselves in addition to any request for Steamboat sales tax revenues.

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ybul 6 years, 6 months ago

The only issue with a sales tax is that it impacts the poor harder than the rest. Yes a large percentage comes from visitors. Maybe, the City should look into not imposing this tax on food, or any tax on food.

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MtnWarlock 6 years, 6 months ago

Skygazer brings up a good point by saying; if the sales tax is to be shared; shouldn't it be collected county wide? More importantly, perhaps with the turnover in all school districts it is time to consolidate the county into one district. I think there is a few legal issues associated that will make that difficult.

Local says; the sales tax is majority funded by visitors which a property tax is not. Why not have others help us out, its smart taxation! That's one of the reasons I voted for the tax 15 years ago!

ybul says; the only issue with a sales tax is that it impacts the poor harder than the rest. If a person spends 15k a year at a half cent that equals $75.00 a year! If your low income, that figure may be more like $35.00 or a half a tank of gasoline.

I think the other communities need to share in the burden of tourism if they want some of the pie! In my opinion, where ever there is a cash hog, there is always somebody looking for a free pig roast! Nobody likes taxes however; I, like many others, will vote no if the tax is spread out to other districts unless someone can educate us as to how much each township buys in sales receipts from Steamboat to justify their share or percent of the tax revenue! Have a good night!

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housepoor 6 years, 6 months ago

How many south routt parents have their kids attend school in Steamboat?

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another_local 6 years, 6 months ago

There are a number of programs in the Steamboat District which are used by neighboring districts in addition to the grant writer funded by the tax who works on behalf of schools in Hayden and S Routt. They include sports activities, alternative education programs.

Regarding how much residents of other areas spend in Steamboat therby contributing to the tax, it is not too hard get a grasp of the scale of that expenditure. If there are 2000 people in S Routt and they each spend $5000 per year (which they don't) inside the boundaries of the tax district that would come to 10M in purchases. The tax generated by this would be 50K. The grant writer raised more than that for them.

I think a lot of people have a misunderstanding about how much of this tax is paid by the people looking for some of the proceeds.

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OneFly 6 years, 6 months ago

Ask those impacted by loss of students to middle routt whether they want grants or a small piece of the pie.

Those who work in middle routt who commute contribute a big share of the workforce that sustains the tourism industry there that amounts to a big part of the millions middle routt schools receive.

Disallow those outside middle routt school distict from attending there and you keep the millions and the other districts gain the students and the small thousands of dollars that keep the schools viable.

Buddy can you spare a dime in these times? This will be interesting for sure.

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