Jim Gill: We need to assess how 1/2-cent sales tax dollars are spent
October 11, 2017
Regarding Jerry Buelter's Oct. 9 letter to the editor, "3C, 3D address district's most pressing needs", the community and school district thanks for the creation of the original ½-cent sales tax dedicated to the educational needs of our school district truly belongs to all those who served on the "Just Good Cents" committee back in 1993 to originally secure this taxing authority and to then create the Steamboat Springs Education Fund to administer the funds.
And his recollection of the original and evolving intent of this unique funding mechanism is accurate. But if creating "education excellence" and "providing appropriate facilities for students and staff" are two of the evolving funding priorities of the Education Fund as Buelter suggested, where are some portion of the significant proceeds from the Education Fund and the ½-cent sales tax revenue ($57,080,843 since inception through July 2017) to support these spending priorities when funds for facilities are needed by the district?
The stated mission of the Steamboat Springs Education Fund is on their website and follows, “To enhance academic accomplishment in Routt County through student-facing investments in staff, facilities, infrastructure, technology, and curriculum, made available through our public schools.”
The written comment for Referendum 3C (the mill levy override) in the Notice of Election document recently provided to taxpayers by our county clerk and recorder states the following, “A YES vote on 3C combined with the school bond measure on the ballot as 3D "addresses very pressing needs in our schools and is important to the district's ability to sustain and advance its culture of excellence.”
The written comment for Referendum 3D (the bond issue) in the same document from the county clerk and recorder states the following, “This investment in Steamboat Springs School District facilities is necessary to provide a safe and healthy environment for our kids, teachers and community members who use district facilities on a regular basis. Without the passage of 3D, the district would have to consider making cuts to its budget in other areas to address these critical projects.”
With the Education Fund committed to provide "student-facing investments in staff, facilities, infrastructure, …" for our students, and one stated purpose of Referendum 3C being to sustain and advance the district's "culture of excellence" and a stated purpose of Referendum 3D being to avoid having to make budget cuts in other areas to address "critical projects" if 3D does not pass, it is inconceivable to many of us who have been supporting the district with the ½-cent sales tax for 24 years that there appears to be absolutely no support for any of the current district financial and facility needs and the district's "critical projects" from the Education Fund.
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With $3.3 million of ½-cent tax revenue expected for the upcoming year's grant cycle and not a single penny of this revenue prioritized to the current financial needs of the district as detailed in Referenda 3C and 3D, perhaps it's time for our community to critically assess whether our ½-cent sales tax dollars have been prioritized and allocated in the manner we intended when we continually voted to extend this taxing authority multiple times over many years and whether or not we want to continue with this taxing authority in the future.
Steamboat Springs Board of Education member, 1993-1999
Steamboat Springs Education Fund board president, 1993-1999, 2000-2001