Steamboat Springs voters likely will decide this year whether to renew the city's half-cent sales tax for education, and the decision could include whether to give some tax revenue to the Hayden and South Routt school districts.
Members of the Education Fund Board expressed unanimous support Tuesday for a renewal question on November's ballot, formally approving an issue the board has discussed for more than a year. Fund Board members agreed to make recommendations about a renewal ballot issue to the Steamboat Springs City Council, which gifts the citywide tax revenues to the Fund Board. The Fund Board administers those revenues and in turn allocates them as gifts to the Steamboat Springs School District.
Earlier this month, the Fund Board approved a budget of more than $4.4 million for the 2008-09 school year, including $1.5 million to complete renovations to Steamboat Springs Middle School.
That spending one day could spread across Routt County.
Fund Board members Tuesday also unanimously supported using some sales tax revenues, pending a renewal, for needs outside of the Steamboat Springs School District - such as Hayden and South Routt schools.
Tim Corrigan and Brian Hoza, presidents of the South Routt and Hayden school boards, respectively, attended Tuesday's meeting and pledged to support efforts for a sales tax renewal if their districts were then considered for some allocation of sales tax funds.
Oak Creek resident Russ Garrity, who led successful school funding campaigns in South Routt last fall, said South Routt was not requesting a specific dollar amount or percentage of sales tax revenue, but only the ability to "come to the table" during Fund Board discussions.
"We would like regional openness to those conversations," Hoza added. "We're at the table, too. : Anything that any of the three (school) districts do is played out in the workplaces of Steamboat Springs."
Fund Board members agreed that improving education regionally supports the entire county.
"I don't think how much money people from South Routt and Hayden spend in Steamboat is the sole reason for including them (in some Fund Board spending)," Fund Board member Sue MacCarthy said.
Several Fund Board members said a set percentage should be used to allocate half-cent sales tax revenue to Hayden and South Routt, to avoid potential future divisiveness and properly inform taxpayers.
Tom Ptach, who presided over the meeting, said those issues can be worked out and finalized in revisions to the Fund Board's intergovernmental agreement with the city and in a potential City Council ordinance related to the ballot issue and sales tax renewal.
Ptach, Mark Andersen and Fund Board accountant Paul Strong agreed to approach City Council members with recommendations for a renewal ballot issue this year and sharing some revenues with Hayden and South Routt schools.
Fund Board members also unanimously supported keeping the sales tax at a half-cent rate and proposing an extension of eight years, beginning Jan. 1, 2010. Steamboat voters initially approved the sales tax in 1993 and renewed it in 1996 and 1999. The current tax will expire Dec. 31, 2009.
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