Our View: Revised Fund Board request on target

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Editorial Board, February to May 2012

  • Scott Stanford, general manager
  • Brent Boyer, editor
  • Tom Ross, reporter
  • Karen Massey, community representative
  • Jeff Swoyer, community representative

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The Steamboat Springs School District did the right thing in revising and shrinking its grant request to the Steamboat Springs Education Fund Board.

The revised request seeks funding for specific educational programs. It does not include requests to fund mandated state or federal programs. That’s as it should be, and we think the requests are worthy of funding.

The Fund Board oversees funds raised by a voter-approved half-cent sales tax for education. The tax typically raises $2.5 million to $3 million per year.

Last month, the Fund Board’s grant commission declined to approve the Steamboat request because of its high price tag ($2.7 million) and lack of accountability measures. The school district returned to the commission last week with a request that had been pared down to $2 million.

The grant commission rightly approved the request. Now, it must be approved by the Fund Board next month.

The grant seeks $624,000 to fund 11 teachers and help the district maintain average class sizes of 20 students per teacher at the elementary school level and 25 students per teacher at the secondary level. The grant request also asks for $160,000 to fund the district’s English-language learners program, $70,000 to fund an additional counselor and $132,000 to support the district’s gifted and talented program.

Other grant requests the Fund Board is considering from the Steamboat school district include $118,000 to support its Spanish language program, $118,000 to fund two literacy coaches who would work at Soda Creek and Strawberry Park elementary schools, $182,400 to fund the district’s technology staff, $350,000 to replace 200 outdated Apple computers and update teachers’ phone systems, $124,213 to buy computer software renewals, $155,000 for network improvements and $40,000 for staff development.

We think the current requests fall within the “educational extras” the half-cent sales tax was designed to fund. We also appreciate that the school district dropped funding requests for its Title I reading and special education programs, which are federally mandated programs that should be funded out of the district’s operational budget.

Routt County is fortunate to have the half-cent sales tax for education. Those revenues provide a boost that other public school districts across the state don’t have access to. But as we have said before, it is wrong to presume that the tax must first and foremost be spent as the Steamboat school district dictates. To the contrary, if the tax is to have integrity, then the Steamboat school district must develop an operational budget that assumes no funding from the Fund Board. That approach allows the district to then seek funds for educational extras as the tax intended.

It appears that the district’s revised request uses that approach. We think it can serve as a model for future Fund Board requests, and provided enough funds are available, the requests should be approved.

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