Steamboat Springs Education Fund Board tackles timeline

Steamboat School District officials back delaying grant approval process

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— The Steamboat Springs Education Fund Board on Wednesday night discussed the timing of its grant vetting process and whether it should move it forward in future years to better coincide with the budget deliberations of Routt County’s school districts.

Steamboat Springs School District officials advocated delaying the process and consolidating Fund Board meetings in the spring so the district could have a better idea of what its budget, which typically is approved in June, looks like before it submits grant applications.

“The longer you guys could wait for some of the applications, the better,” Steamboat Springs School Board President Brian Kelly told the Fund Board. “We would know what cuts we face.”

He added that funding requests from community groups such as Yampatika and Partners in Routt County then could be evaluated against the school district’s extracurricular programs that aren’t identified as potential cuts until later in the school year and after the Fund Board’s application deadline has passed.

“I have a great deal of faith the grant committee has the ability to weigh out the requests in front of them,” Kelly said. “They just don’t have everything presented to them at the same time, or in some cases, at all.”

The Fund Board’s grant application deadline this year was Feb. 1, nearly two months before the Steamboat school board held its first budget workshop with staff members. At that workshop last month, principals and administrators identified potential cuts that included the elementary school Spanish program and the high school’s SEAL program for at-risk students, among other things.

Superintendent Brad Meeks said delaying the Fund Board application deadline and moving the process further into the spring ultimately could allow his district to better decide what items to ask the Fund Board to support.

Fund Board member Paige Boucher said postponing the grant vetting process to mesh with the district’s budget deliberations could give both sides a chance to better evaluate grant requests.

Glenn Airoldi, chairman of the Fund Board’s grant vetting commission, added that he would like to allow the school districts to submit additional grant requests this year based on their current budget process and the input of the community members who attend their budget forums.

But the Fund Board quickly came to a realization that moving its timeline could cause unexpected and negative consequences.

Fund Board member Roger Good said the reason the grant vetting process ends in early May is to allow the school districts time to give their employees who are supported by the city of Steamboat’s half-cent sales tax ample notice as to whether they will have a job the next school year.

“I remember this board having arguments that were equally as passionate as this one to move (the grant vetting process) earlier,” he said.

Fund Board President Kristi Brown also was skeptical of the plan to delay the process.

“A large percentage of our grants are for staff positions,” she said after the meeting. “I don’t know how we would do this process differently” and still give the districts enough time to inform their employees whether the Fund Board will pay their salaries.

Still, Brown said she would be open to adjusting the schedule if the move indeed would benefit the school districts. The Fund Board ended its meeting Wednesday with a plan to continue the discussion at a future meeting.

Also at Wednesday’s meeting, the Fund Board:

■ Breezed through the first readings of nine grant applications from the Steamboat, Hayden and South Routt school districts. Board members asked very few questions about applications that included Steamboat’s largest grant request for $986,000 that would fund 11 full-time teachers, support its English language learners and gifted and talented programs and hire a counselor. With all first readings now complete, the Fund Board’s grant vetting commission will meet April 18 to decide which of the grants to cut or move forward for approval.

■ Approved its projected 2012-13 grant award total at $2.536 million. The figure is an increase from the $2.4 million the Fund Board awarded this school year.

To reach Scott Franz, call 970-871-4210 or email scottfranz@SteamboatToday.com

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