Steamboat Springs Calling state funding for education unreliable and insufficient, a group of South Routt School District officials and community members on Wednesday started to put the finishing touches on a plan to next month launch a private endowment fund that carries with it an ambitious fundraising goal.
Superintendent Scott Mader said the fund, which aims to raise $25 million in five years through private donations, is a needed source of revenue for the school district that had its budget cut by an average of $250,000 in each of the past three years, according to district Finance Director Dina Murray.
Mader said the $25 million goal was established because if it is achieved, the endowment could give the school district $1 million per year, a sum the superintendent said would help support a “first-class education” in South Routt.
“Proposition 103 went down in flames, and we are not going to get enough money from the state for our schools to be funded properly,” Mader said at the beginning of the meeting at Bud Werner Memorial Library to discuss the formation of the private fund. “I think the state is an unreliable source of income for us. This (fund) will become part of our support.”
He said the fund could, as early as next school year, be used to support students, teachers, school programs and facilities. Specifically, he said some funds could be used to allow the district to offer its teachers 10-month contracts instead of the current nine.
“I don’t think this (fundraising) goal will be easy, but we have to keep after it,” he said.
The fund was first proposed last year by Soroco High School Principal Dennis Alt, who on Wednesday said the private endowment fund could reduce the district’s reliance on state funding and tax increases for revenue.
A nine-member task force consisting of South Routt district officials, parents and teachers has been meeting monthly to make that idea a reality in the form of the South Routt Education Endowment, or SREE.
At a meeting Wednesday, Alt, Mader, South Routt School Board President Tim Corrigan, parent Russ Garrity and South Routt Elementary School teacher Peggy Barnes met with Yampa Valley Community Foundation Executive Director Mark Andersen to discuss how the school district could start the endowment fund with the nonprofit’s support next month.
Mader said the task force has collected $8,000 of the $12,500 in donations they need to start the fund and will need to raise $1 million before any funds can be released to the school district. He also talked with Andersen about how the funds would be managed and distributed by an advisory board in the future.
But the most immediate need is fundraising, Mader said.
“Once we get this going, then we really need to push to get larger donations,” he said, adding that members of the task force already are reaching out to businesses, community members and South Routt alumni for contributions.
Garrity, who has two children attending Soroco High School, said the endowment fund likely will distribute the private donations much like the Steamboat Springs Education Fund Board each year distributes revenue from a half-cent sales tax.
“I really think this is an interesting idea to attempt to privatize some of the funding for our school district,” Garrity said.
The task force now is working to develop a website for the fund through the Yampa Valley Community Foundation, and it will meet again next month to finalize the endowment’s launch.
— To reach Scott Franz, call 970-871-4210 or email scottfranz@SteamboatToday.com