Consolidating 3 Routt County school districts to be explored

Education officials plan conversation as school districts face cuts

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— Local education officials agree that exploring the consolidation of the three Routt County school districts is a good idea, but they aren’t sure how to do it.

Education Fund Board Vice President Mark Andersen said he thought the volunteer group that allocates the city of Steamboat Springs half-cent sales tax for education should discuss whether paying for a study to explore that would be an appropriate use of local education dollars.

“If it’s going to help our local schools and if there’s any way to facilitate that, yeah, I think it’s going to be beneficial,” he said, but added, “I think it’s way too early to determine that. We don’t know how the school districts feel about it.”

Officials with the districts also have said it’s about time to start discussing whether combining the Steamboat Springs, Hayden and South Routt school districts’ more than 3,100 students should be considered.

South Routt Superintendent Scott Mader said he would add a consolidation discussion to the School Board’s March 17 agenda. Mader said he didn’t think Gov. John Hickenlooper’s proposed $332 million net reduction to statewide K-12 education next year would lead to the immediate consolidation of the county’s school districts.

“Not that things aren’t bad, but some drastic cuts from the state would have to come for us to think seriously in that direction in the near future,” he said.

Hayden Superintendent Mike Luppes said a discussion among the district’s school board members would be appropriate in the future but not now.

“It’s something worth exploring, let me put it that way,” he said. “I think it depends how it’s done.”

Andersen said he would ask Fund Board President Kristi Brown to put a discussion about paying for a consolidation study on the nonprofit group’s March 23 meeting agenda.

Brown said a discussion is worth having. She said whether the Fund Board paid for a study would be determined later.

“I think if it’s something the community would like to see done, it’s an appropriate use of Fund Board dollars,” she said. “In order to continue to provide education to our students in Routt County to the level that we’ve provided in the past, meaning superior results, we are going to have to pursue some avenues for cost savings. This is a viable one. I think a study is the first step.”

— To reach Jack Weinstein, call 970-871-4203 or e-mail jweinstein@SteamboatToday.com

Comments

Wendy Villa 3 years, 9 months ago

Where is the comment from the Steamboat superintendent on her thoughts? Both SOROCO and Hayden's comments are here. Just curious.

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Carrie Requist 3 years, 9 months ago

There was this set of comments from the Steamboat Superintendent in the article on Wednesday: “I appreciated his comments about consolidation — that topic is sure out there,” said Shalee Cunningham, superintendent of the Steamboat Springs School District.

Cunningham said “conversations are beginning” about whether and how to fund a study of the potential benefits and impacts of merging the Steamboat Springs, Hayden and South Routt school districts.

Hickenlooper said Wednesday, as a theoretical example, that a structure of one superintendent working with three school boards could be feasible. Cunningham, though, said such a notion likely wouldn’t work — at least not in Routt County.

“Probably not,” she said, with a rueful laugh. “That isn’t consolidation. … You can’t just wave a wand and consolidate. It’s very political, and it’s very sensitive.”

http://www.steamboattoday.com/news/2011/mar/09/hickenlooper-touches-school-district-consolidation/

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Scott Wedel 3 years, 9 months ago

I observe that schools are primarily funded by property tax revenues and that the County Assessor office is working on the new valuations which will be the taxable basis for the next two years. I think it is clear they will be down substantially for the County.

I do not know to what extent, if any, districts can simply increase their mill levy to make up for declining valuations, but since revenues went up with property values then I'm guessing revenues are going to go down with the decline in values.

So it would appear that this year's state budget cuts are hardly the end of decreasing revenues for the districts.

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Wendy Villa 3 years, 9 months ago

So one good thing that would come of consolidation is that Hayden and SOROCO teachers/staff SHOULD receive pay increases to Steamboat's pay scale upon consolidation. Right??

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Scott Wedel 3 years, 9 months ago

Daisy, Things like pay is one of those things that would have to be decided as part of the consolidation process. They could pay everyone the same. Or they could come up with some rationale based upon housing costs and justify paying SB teachers a bit more.

Obviously, any differential would be minor because they would not want staffing to want to leave one school to work at another because of the pay situation.

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