Steamboat Springs City officials were undecided Friday about whether to share revenues from the city's half-cent sales tax for education with school districts in Hayden and South Routt.
Several members of the Steamboat Springs City Council said they did not yet have enough information on the idea, which earned unanimous support this week from members of the Education Fund Board. The Fund Board administers the half-cent sales tax, which local voters first approved in 1993 and has a budget of more than $4.4 million for the 2008-09 school year.
Fund Board members Wednesday supported not only a ballot issue in November that would ask voters to renew the sales tax but also working with the City Council to create flexibility in the use of sales tax revenues - in other words, allowing Hayden and South Routt school officials to make funding requests.
"I don't have any thoughts - this is the first I've heard of it," City Council President Loui Antonucci said Friday. "The only thing I can tell you is that I think flexibility is always good."
Antonucci said he likely would respect the Fund Board's recommendation to share some revenues with Hayden and South Routt.
"But I haven't heard the arguments on the other side, so I don't know what the issues are yet," he said. "My only worry would be that if we take it out of Steamboat, does that hurt Steamboat teachers?"
Dale Mellor, finance director for the Steamboat Springs School District, said Wednesday that Fund Board revenues provide salaries for more than 20 local teachers, in addition to much of the district's technology staff.
Council member Scott Myller said he understands the contributions Hayden and South Routt residents make to Steamboat Springs sales tax.
"I suppose the argument is we get plenty of money from those folks, and (sharing Fund Board dollars) would be a way to pay that back," he said. But "it doesn't seem like we're floating in the dough right now, either. I would give it serious consideration."
The City Council 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.
Fund Board members Tom Ptach and Mark Andersen, and Fund Board accountant Paul Strong, agreed Wednesday to approach City Council members with recommendations for a renewal ballot issue this year and sharing some revenues with Hayden and South Routt schools.
Questions about what form that sharing would take - such as the amount and whether it would be a fixed percentage or a request-by-request basis - have yet to be decided.
Fund Board members unanimously supported keeping the sales tax at a half-cent rate and proposing an extension of eight years, beginning Jan. 1, 2010. Steamboat voters renewed the sales tax in 1996 and 1999. The current tax will expire Dec. 31, 2009.
Council member Steve Ivancie said the sales tax should continue.
"I do support the renewal of the half-cent (sales tax). It's been good for the schools and I'd like to see it renewed," he said. "As far as the sharing, I'll certainly listen to what the Fund Board says, but I'd need some time to mull that one over."
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