South Routt School District looks for help

Officials will ask residents to approve property tax increase

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If you go

What: Improve Soroco Schools public meeting

When: 7 p.m. Thursday

Where: Oak Creek Fire Protection District station

Call: Russ Garrity at 970-736-1020 for more information

Referendum 3A

Shall South Routt RE-3 School District taxes be increased $354,357 in tax collection year 2011, and annually thereafter for five years and then terminated (sunset), the proceeds to be used for educational purposes to be approved by the board of education which shall include, but not be limited to:

■ maintaining current education programs that promote student achievement

■ attracting, training, and retaining high quality teachers and support staff

■ maintaining small class sizes

■ maintaining district buildings and grounds

■ replacing reduced state funding

By an additional property tax to be levied at a rate sufficient to produce the amount specified above, which taxes shall be deposited into the general fund of the district, shall be in addition to the property taxes that otherwise would be levied for the general fund and shall constitute a voter approved revenue change that may be collected and spent without further voter approval, notwithstanding the limitations of Article X, Section 20 of the Colorado constitution or any other law?

— The South Routt School District needs its residents to approve a property tax increase next month, Russ Garrity said.

Garrity, chairman of the Improve Soroco Schools committee, said the state cut the district’s funding and expects additional cuts in future years. He said South Routt County residents’ approval of Referendum 3A would generate $354,357 annually for the district.

“This year, the school district is being impacted very negatively by events in Denver,” Garrity said. “We didn’t do anything wrong, but the recession has caused our revenues to be rolled back 7.75 percent, and that’s a huge number.”

The district reduced its cash reserves, cut an administrative position and froze faculty and staff salaries to make up for less revenue this year.

Garrity said the revenue generated from the property tax increase would allow the district to maintain existing programs and class sizes, attract and retain teachers and maintain school facilities.

He said 65 percent of the district’s general fund pays for faculty and staff salaries and benefits.

The property tax increase would expire after five years. It would cost residents about $17 per $100,000 of actual property value annually, about $61 per $100,000 of actual commercial property value annually and about $31 per $50,000 of actual agricultural property value annually.

The Improve Soroco Schools committee, which is registered with the state, is hosting a public meeting at 7 p.m. Thursday at the Oak Creek Fire Protection District station in Stagecoach. Garrity said he’ll give a presentation about why the district is asking residents to approve a property tax increase and take questions. It’s the third such public meeting.

Garrity, who worked on com­­mittees in 2007 for a property tax increase and bond issue to fund the district’s new heating system, and for the city of Steamboat Springs’ half-cent sales tax for education in 2008, also said volunteers would be providing information and answering questions in Yampa and Oak Creek on Saturday.

The district started talking about going to the voters before Proposition 101 and Amendments 60 and 61 — tax-cutting ballot measures state voters will consider next month — were certified for the ballot.

Garrity said the ballot measures complicate matters for South Routt because they would further reduce the district’s revenue.

According to an analysis of the ballot measures’ impact on school funding, called “Looking Forward,” South Routt would lose 43.6 percent, or nearly $1.9 million, of its annual revenue. The analysis was conducted by the Colorado Fiscal Policy Institute, The Bell Policy Center and the Colorado Children’s Campaign.

Garrity said so far, the reaction he’s received from residents about the property tax increase has been positive.

“Even in this anti-tax time, I think people are generally supportive,” he said.

The Hayden School District also will ask residents to approve a property tax increase next month to generate $321,473.

— To reach Jack Weinstein, call 871-4203 or e-mail jweinstein@steamboatpilot.com

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