Education Fund Board approves $3M budget, considers funding kindergarten tuition | SteamboatToday.com

Education Fund Board approves $3M budget, considers funding kindergarten tuition

Kindergartner Kenzie Moore looks to a classmate while opening a can of Play-Doh during her first day of class in 2014.

— The Steamboat Springs Education Fund Board Wednesday gave final approval to $3 million in grant requests for the 2016-17 school year, including nearly $2.4 million in requests from the Steamboat Springs School District.

The approvals come after a series of readings from the Education Fund Board and the fund's Grant Commission over the past several months.

Among Steamboat's requests, which total about 80 percent of the fund's overall budget, were the salaries of more than a dozen teachers, $630,000 in technology staff, hardware and computer equipment and funding for English language learner and gifted and talented programs.

Hayden School District received $148,000, about 5 percent of the overall budget, which included funding primarily for technology upgrades and staff, as well as funding for intervention staff.

South Routt School District received $146,000, including $86,000 for technology upgrades, funding for a part-time science teacher and funding for a part-time instructional coach.

The remaining 10 percent of the budget was previously allocated and approved to go to community groups, collaborative grants among the districts and administrative costs, though all were voted on together Wednesday as part of the fund's final budget.

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Following the vote, Education Fund Board members dove into a conversation about whether to spend $81,000 in excess money the fund has realized through above-forecast sales tax revenue in recent months.

Several board members quickly expressed an interest in putting the money toward kindergarten tuition costs in Steamboat for the upcoming school year, something the fund paid for during the current year.

The district had initially again requested funding to cover all-day kindergarten costs for next year, but later amended its request to the Education Fund to instead ask for more teachers.

Currently, the district is planning to charge $750 in annual tuition to cover costs for kindergartners who upgrade from the free half-day program to a full-day program.

Board member Kristi Brown said the community was strongly in favor of the Education Fund paying for all-day kindergarten when it was proposed last year.

"I've been on the board for over 10 years, and I don't remember an issue that received more lobbying on the part of the community than full-day kindergarten," Brown said. "When you talk about what the community wants, they want free full-day kindergarten."

Board members Jill Brabec, Dean Massey and Summer Johnston immediately agreed when Brown suggested spending the "extra" $81,000, and some additional money the fund keeps on hand as a cushion, to eliminate kindergarten tuition entirely.

"We can come in and save the day and save full-day kindergarten," Brown said.

But not all board members agreed on how to spend the money, the discussion digressed and the board chose to table consideration of spending the $81,000 until at least its June meeting, giving board members more time to think about how the funds might best be used.

To reach Teresa Ristow, call 970-871-4206, email tristow@SteamboatToday.com or follow her on Twitter @TeresaRistow

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