Steamboat Springs Voters in Hayden and South Routt County approved property tax increases that will provide additional funding to each community’s school district.
Each district’s superintendent said the annual funding boost — $321,473 in Hayden and $354,357 in South Routt — would help them maintain current operations while facing anticipated cuts to K-12 education statewide.
“It will really help in the tough times ahead of us, the budget cuts that are coming our way,” South Routt Superintendent Scott Mader said.
South Routt voters approved Referendum 3A with 56 percent in favor of the tax increase. In Hayden, the margin was narrower, with only 51 percent voting to approve the measure. With more than 200 provisional countywide votes outstanding, there's a chance the Hayden vote could swing. It was not immediately clear how many of the provisional ballots were from voters in the Hayden School District.
Both school districts cut their general fund budgets this year — Hayden by about $420,000 and South Routt by about $435,000.
The cuts were necessary because of a reduction in state funding and increased costs of employee health insurance and retirement benefits. Hayden also provided employees with salary step increases. And both districts have fewer students this year, which affects the amount of per-pupil funding they receive from the state.
Hayden’s cuts were possible because the district restructured its administration, increased some student fees, contracted bus maintenance and inspection services to the Moffat County School District, reduced staff positions and implemented three furlough days.
Hayden Superintendent Mike Luppes said that because the district anticipates its enrollment will continue declining, the additional revenue wouldn’t necessarily prevent some future budget cuts. But he did say it would allow the district to keep class sizes small and address some facility needs, such as a new hot water heater at the secondary campus, which would cost $16,000.
“This enables us to have some flexibility to meet those needs we have,” Luppes said. “That’s why we’re very pleased that the community supported that. It’s a slim margin. We knew from the beginning it’s not any easy climate to have this ballot issue out there. We appreciate the community support on that.”
Revenue from the property tax increase will allow South Routt to keep class sizes small, preserve faculty and staff compensation levels and maintain existing facilities and equipment, district officials have said.
“I want to thank the voters,” Mader said. “It shows they have a lot of confidence in the district, faculty and staff that we’re making the right decisions for students. We’re setting some high achievement goals in three years, trying to be accredited with distinction. This would certainly go a long way toward us reaching that goal.”
Hayden’s tax increase, which will expire after four years, will cost residents $24.79 per $100,000 of assessed residential value. It will cost $90.31 per $100,000 of assessed commercial value.
South Routt’s increase, which will expire after five years, will cost about $17 per $100,000 of assessed residential property value annually. It will cost about $61 per $100,000 of assessed commercial property value annually and about $31 per $50,000 of assessed agricultural property value annually.