Voters support use of sales tax for Hayden, South Routt schools

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Voters in Steamboat Springs voted overwhelmingly to pass local Referendum 2B, allowing the Education Fund Board to share the city's half-cent sales tax with other school districts in Routt County.

This is the first time in 15 years of the tax that city voters specifically authorized sharing the nearly $3 million in annual revenue with other county school districts. More than 72 percent of Steamboat voters supported using some tax revenues for educational needs in South Routt and Hayden, beginning in 2010.

Scott Mader, superintendent of the South Routt School District, said he was overwhelmed by the vote.

"This is as good as it gets, with more than 70 percent. That's a landslide," he said.

There were 4,475 votes cast in favor of Referendum 2B and 1,722 votes against.

The referendum allows the Fund Board, "in its sole discretion," to provide an unspecified amount of money to the county's other school districts. The referendum doesn't guarantee any money would have to be spent on other districts, but it opens the door to the possibility.

Hayden School District Superintendent Greg Rockhold said he was impressed that Referendums 2A - to renew the half-cent tax - and 2B were passed with similar margins. Referendum 2A passed with 76.6 percent support.

"I would say that I was expecting (the measure to pass), but I was very pleased with both of them almost neck-and-neck," Rockhold said.

Rockhold and Mader said improving school technology will be the first priority for the districts.

"In anticipation, and we were hoping it would pass, we've worked up a preliminary three-year technology plan for our district," Mader said. "It's a genuine need that we have."

Steamboat Springs School Board President Robin Crossan said she was unsure of the outcome since it was the first year voters have been presented with a choice to share the wealth.

"We were concerned because it was something new and we didn't have a feel for it one way or another," she said. "It shows that the citizens in the city of Steamboat Springs feel so strongly about education, and that they're telling us it's time to share."

Since the sales tax was created in 1993, the Education Fund Board has directed the revenue from the half-cent sales tax exclusively to schools in the Steamboat Springs School District.

Officials in the South Routt and Hayden school districts have long lobbied for the right to request some of the funds generated by the half-cent sales tax, arguing that although the money is generated from Steamboat Springs, many of their constituents work and shop in Steamboat, thereby contributing to the revenues that are then spent exclusively on Steamboat students.

- To reach Zach Fridell, call 871-4208

or e-mail zfridell@steamboatpilot.com

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