Steamboat Springs The South Routt School District School Board voted last Thursday to place a property tax reauthorization on November’s ballot, a $354,357 mill levy renewal that was first approved by voters in 2010.
With two of the board’s seven members absent from Thursday’s regular meeting, the five present voted unanimously in favor of continuing the mill levy, which was set to expire in the 2016 tax collection year. South Routt voters passed the original property tax by 56 percent.
“I don’t want to speak for the rest of the board, but I have every feeling it would have been a 7-0 vote,” board President Jules Palyo said. “Everyone was really on board.”
The property tax would be the very same amount that has been imposed for four years now, something both Palyo and new Superintendent Darci Mohr said was critical in the board’s decision to place the issue on the ballot.
“By law, we could ask for more, but the board decided not to,” Mohr said. “We knew we could ask for more, but we chose to ask for that set amount. We didn’t want to add any new tax burden.”
Another important factor, Mohr said, was placing a new 10-year sunset on the proposed mill levy reauthorization, meaning the imposed property tax would expire in 2026, a decade from its current 2016 sunset.
Though the district doesn’t need to ask voters to renew the property tax for another year, Mohr said after evaluating input from neighboring districts, it was in South Routt’s best interest to move early and not wait for the 2015 ballot.
“We thought, ‘Well, maybe next year will be better,’” Mohr said. “But we started paying attention to a little more of what’s going on around the state, and other districts are saying this is a good time to go.”
Since 2010, the tax has been costing South Routt residents $5.73 per month per $100,000 of assessed property valuation. It has been costing commercial entities $20.91 per $100,000 of assessed valuation.
Mohr said it would be nice to ask a little more from South Routt taxpayers on the November ballot, but the district needs to “at least continue the funding” it currently has.
Last school year, the district had to cut more than $200,000 from the 2014-15 budget, and like districts statewide, continues to battle lost revenue to the tune of $1.7 million in three years due to the State of Colorado’s negative factor.
The property tax has been helping South Routt School District maintain programs like the visual and performing arts and physical education, something Mohr noted is rare in Colorado public education, especially in Denver’s metropolitan areas.
“If we lost the $354,000 (from the property tax), that’s a huge percentage of our budget,” Mohr said. “We couldn’t maintain what we have without that funding.”
At Thursday's meeting, the board also voted to refinance a combination of district bonds, which would save South Routt taxpayers around $280,000 in interest. Palyo said the refinancing would go into effect Sept. 3.
Mohr said the district looked into refinancing the bonds last year, before she was hired, but it was estimated that only $160,000 in taxpayer savings would be realized at that time.
“The board wisely decided to wait a year, and we took advantage of the market being pretty high,” Mohr said.
To reach Ben Ingersoll, call 970-871-4204, email bingersoll@SteamboatToday.com or follow him on Twitter @BenMIngersoll