Steamboat Springs Middle School students Dani Perry, from left, Patrick Weston and Michael Savory take a break during an Everything Outdoor Steamboat trip to Rabbit Ears Pass in March 2007. The EOS group was denied a $1,750 request for new sleeping bags because of declining sales tax revenues allocated by the Education Fund Board.

File photo

Steamboat Springs Middle School students Dani Perry, from left, Patrick Weston and Michael Savory take a break during an Everything Outdoor Steamboat trip to Rabbit Ears Pass in March 2007. The EOS group was denied a $1,750 request for new sleeping bags because of declining sales tax revenues allocated by the Education Fund Board.

Community groups seek alternatives to gain needed financial support

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Community groups in Steamboat Springs are finding that the economic recession is forcing them to look for new sources of funding, new ways of operating and, sometimes, a bit of luck to get the support they need to continue.

After the Education Fund Board rejected four proposals - three from community groups - during an annual budgeting session because of a decrease in collected sales tax, the unfunded programs are left looking for alternative sources of money.

Keri Rusthoi and the Emerald City Opera Touring Opera Company were turned down for a $3,000 grant that would have allowed the group to perform in Routt County schools free of charge to the schools. The blow was a setback, Rusthoi said, but she added that it won't stop the performances.

"It's not going to stop us from moving forward, but we're not necessarily going to be able to offer in-school performances at no charge," she said. "This was a new opportunity for us to make it more accessible for students in Routt County, and there may be other funders in Routt County interested in supporting us that we haven't even approached yet."

Even though the group's request was denied, Rusthoi, who served on the Fund Board as a community representative for three years, said she could not fault the group for making the tough decisions about what should be funded.

"Obviously, it's a pretty tough year, so I'm not surprised they chose not to prioritize that, and I don't disagree with it," she said.

During the April 1 Fund Board meeting where 27 requests were approved, the two largest community projects received their requested amount. Partners in Routt County was approved for $50,000 to continue placing mentors in Routt County middle schools, and the Rocky Mountain Science School was granted $35,000 to continue its weeklong summer science camp for regional students.

Tough cuts

Community groups weren't the only proposals to feel the pinch as the Fund Board tightened its budget in favor of dipping into reserve funds.

The Steamboat Springs School District faces the possibility of removing one English Language Learner instructor and one Gifted and Talented teacher after the educational excellence commission, tasked with trimming the budget, cut one position in each area.

Hayden Valley Elementary School teacher Ginny Glenn also will have to continue doing double duty as the school's gym and music instructor for the next school year, as the Fund Board declined a $45,000 request from the Hayden School District to cover an additional teacher.

There is no way for the school district to find the money to fill that position without the Fund Board, Hayden Superintendent Greg Rockhold said.

"It spreads her way thin, but that's fine. She's a trooper," he said about Glenn. "We are ecstatic with what the Fund Board voted on to support for students and staff down here."

Rockhold said this year, the first the South Routt and Hayden districts were allowed to request money from the Fund Board after a November vote, has been a learning experience as they navigate the request process. That uncertainty led Rockhold not to count on any money during the first cycle.

"For the first go-around, we obviously requested some items. We didn't know what to plan for, so therefore we didn't really plan on receiving anything. So, we're grateful for what we did receive," he said.

The district still is looking into other funding requests for that position and other requests, but Rockhold said the likelihood of finding any other sources of funding is ever more remote.

"The requirements for a lot of grants, the requirements themselves are being strengthened. They're not as loose as they used to be," he said. "I had a call a couple weeks back on a possible grant. (I was asked) if we were awarded this grant, would we be willing to accept $25,000 less than we had initially asked for. Of course I said yes."

Branching out

Trees and other creative fundraisers may be key for another group denied a small request for the next school year. Matt Tredway and Everything Outdoor Steamboat requested $1,750 from the board to purchase new sleeping bags for the group's trips.

Tredway said the group instead will rely on its annual tree sale and other grants to pull together the necessary funds.

"It is a struggle," he said.

Tredway said his group still is a finalist for an Impact 100 grant from the Yampa Valley Community Foundation, but he said the resources are far from assured because he is unsure about how much people will be willing to donate.

"A giant litmus test will be the tree sale," he said about the fundraiser, now in its 15th year.

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