Wednesday, January 21, 2009
My mother taught me that you should never look a gift horse in the mouth. As the Education Fund Board is preparing to begin the process of wrapping and addressing the gifts it will deliver to needy and deserving boys and girls throughout Routt County in its next budget cycle, several indignant individuals already have demanded that Hayden and South Routt students should get more (Bill Hayden, letters to the editor, Jan. 11 Steamboat Pilot & Today, and Charles DeVepo, letters to the editor, Jan. 18 Steamboat Pilot & Today).
Let's be clear here: not a single dollar has yet been allocated, and yet these two men already are asking for more. Ironically, there is no obligation on the part of the Fund Board to give a single, solitary cent to Hayden or South Routt students, and yet these fellows feel they are entitled to a sizeable chunk.
My mother always encouraged me to believe in fairy tales. While there are some fairy-tale qualities to the evolution of Referendum 2B, such as Steamboat Springs leaders and community members agreeing to share their hard-earned local tax money with their neighbors out of the goodness of their hearts, the story stops well short of having the Robin Hood effect that Bill Hayden and Charles DeVepo were hoping for. To be clear: There was never any intention to take money out of Steamboat Springs classrooms in order to fund requests from Hayden and South Routt. As part of the campaign for Referendum 2B, in which I tirelessly participated, Steamboat Springs voters were assured that its passage would not negatively impact students in Steamboat Springs, as the RE-2 district would remain the primary beneficiary of the funds.
Many Steamboat Springs parents hesitated to embrace Referendum 2B, but ultimately voted with their hearts and with confidence that the Fund Board would remain true to its purpose to meet the needs of the Steamboat Springs School District first, with additional funds - as they are available - being used to support Hayden and South Routt.
My mother taught me that something is still better than nothing. It is clear from its efforts that the Fund Board, which championed the idea of sharing funds with the South Routt and Hayden districts in the first place, has a heartfelt desire to see some funds distributed to our neighbors. The question about how it is done and how much they will get will take some time to work out. And I imagine this could fluctuate greatly from year to year depending on sales tax revenues and the funding requests received by the Fund Board.
This year will be the first year and probably the most difficult, taking into consideration our current economic climate and its direct impact on sales tax revenue. With cooperation and collaboration, I am confident the sharing process can work and the students in the Hayden and Soroco districts will see improvements in their learning environments as a result. The gifts this year may not be as large as we all would have liked, but any gift that is made will meet a need that would have otherwise gone unmet.
My mother also taught me that if you're not part of the solution, then you're really just part of the problem. Ultimately, those whose interests lie more in "stirring the pot" and creating controversy rather than contributing to the discussion in any meaningful way may actually be doing a big disservice to their respective communities. Let us not forget that Referendum 2B is a voluntary and temporary measure born from the goodwill of the Steamboat Springs community at the behest of the Education Fund Board. I would expect that if the process creates more conflict than goodwill, the possibility that Steamboat Springs leaders would include a similar Referendum 2B on the ballot the next time around seems unlikely.
My mother reminded me time and time again that if I couldn't say anything nice, then I would probably be better off saying nothing at all. Well, you probably wouldn't be completely shocked to hear me admit that not everything my mother ever taught me actually stuck.
The Fund Board meets at 5:30 p.m. on the first Wednesday of every month at the Human Resources Center Board Room on Seventh Street. The Fund Board's three commissions meet on their respective second, third and fourth Wednesdays each month at the same time and in the same location. Parents and interested community members throughout Routt County are encouraged to participate. The Fund Board Web site can be found at Education Fund Board.
The opinions expressed here are not meant to reflect those of the Fund Board, the Capital Commission or the Half Cent Makes Sense Committee. Brown is a member of the Education Fund Board and its Capital Commission, and she was a leader of the Half Cent Makes Sense Committee that pushed for the passage of Referendums 2A and 2B in November 2008.