Education Fund Board approves 2010-11 budget

Commissions to present 2nd reading of specific gifts April 7

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— The Education Fund Board approved a $2.31 million budget Wednesday night for the 2010-11 school year.

The budget sets the allocation amounts for the Technology/Capital and Educational Excel­lence commissions. The commissions will present second readings of specific gifts for the Routt County school districts and local community groups to the Fund Board on April 7.

A meeting March 24 was set aside for second readings, but board members opted to meet during their regularly scheduled meeting on the first Wednesday of the month.

The budget includes an allocation of $1,254,000 to the Educational Excellence Com­mission, $946,000 to the Tech­nology/Capital Commis­sion, $80,000 for the Fund Board’s grant writer and $30,000 for its administrative costs.

Based on sales tax projections — a 10 percent decrease from January to June and flat the rest of the year — the budgeted amount would leave the Fund Board with more than $700,000 in reserves.

The budget is the same as what the Fund Board originally proposed in January. At that meeting, the Steamboat Springs, Hayden and South Routt school districts and four community groups presented requests in excess of $2.7 million.

Until the budget was formally approved, the commissions were considering requests based on a preliminary budget that gave them a ballpark figure from which to allocate funds.

Only Fund Board members Michael Loomis and Dean Mas­­sey opposed the motion to approve the $2.31 million budget.

Loomis suggested each commission’s allocation be cut 10 percent, which would leave more money in reserve. Massey opposed the motion because the Technology/Capital Com­­mission’s allocation was $16,000 less than what was presented the Fund Board during first readings at the Feb. 10 meeting.

There was a lot of discussion about whether to keep the budget at $2.31 million or decrease it. Fund Board gifts are especially important to the districts in 2010-11, as they expect to lose as much as 10 percent during that year’s budget in funding from the state.

Steamboat Springs is projecting a $2 million budget shortfall in 2010-11, and Hayden and South Routt’s shortfalls each are projected to be near $500,000.

“We do know it’s raining outside, and we want to spend (reserves) on a rainy day, but we don’t know how long the storm will last,” Fund Board President Mark Andersen said.

Loomis said he suggested keeping more in reserve because the school districts have been told that the 2011-12 budget cycle could be as bad as, if not worse than, 2010-11. And he added that there’s nothing to suggest sales taxes will bounce back.

In 2009, total Steamboat sales tax collections were down 16.23 percent compared with 2008, according to figures released by the city. This year, the city has budgeted an additional 10 percent decrease in sales tax collections.

Fund Board member Tom Ptach reminded the board that there’s not a cash flow problem, even if the board spent all its reserves. He said the fund would continue collecting sales taxes. If sales taxes continued to plummet, Ptach said, they still would have cash to gift, just less of it.

Andersen said the 2010-11 budget was a good balancing act. The Fund Board dipped into reserves by about $300,000 but preserved the majority should it be needed in the future, he said.

And if sales taxes come in higher than what’s projected, additional funds could be allocated later, Fund Board members said.

The Educational Excellence and Technology/Capital commissions will meet in the next two weeks to decide what gifts they will present to the Fund Board on second reading.

Educational Excellence meets at 5:30 p.m. March 10 in the upstairs board room of the George P. Sauer Human Ser­vices Center on Seventh Street. Tech­nology/Capital meets at 5:30 p.m. March 17 in the downstairs boardroom of the George P. Sauer Human Ser­vices Center.

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