Our View: You can’t fix what isn’t broken
May 15, 2012
Deciding how to best spend a couple million dollars in taxpayer money shouldn't be easy or quick, which means there isn't a pressing need for the Steamboat Springs Education Fund Board to change how it doles out money to Routt County school districts each year.
The all-volunteer Fund Board and its grants commission just wrapped up a months-long process of vetting funding requests from all three Routt County school districts as well as a few community groups. The result is $2.5 million in taxpayer money allocated to a variety of projects and programs aimed at boosting student achievement during the 2012-13 school year.
The vast majority of those funds — about 83 percent — will go to the Steamboat Springs School District. Smaller amounts will be distributed to the Hayden (6 percent) and South Routt (7 percent) school districts. Community groups like Partners in Routt County and Rocky Mountain Youth Corps will receive about 2.5 percent of the funds, and the North Routt Community Charter School will receive about 1.5 percent. The money allocated by the Education Fund Board is from a city of Steamboat Springs 0.5 percent sales tax for education.
While most school officials seem pleased with the ultimate outcome — money for their districts — some questioned the Fund Board process, complaining about its length and calling it "arduous" and "exhausting." They want to see it simplified and expedited for future funding cycles.
We disagree, and we're pleased that some Fund Board members do, too. If anything, the Fund Board process has become more streamlined throughout the years. Where there once were three separate commissions evaluating funding requests, there is now just one. The total number of monthly Fund Board meetings has been pared down from four to two.
More important is that the process as it exists today provides transparency and accountability. The public needs to be given the opportunity to learn about the various requests and comment on them before they are approved. The vetting process similarly needs to be fair for all districts and groups that come forward with ideas for how the money can best be used. Deciding how to spend $2.5 million during the course of just one or two meetings wouldn't allow the careful examination of individual funding requests that we think Fund Board members have done an exemplary job carrying out.
Again, giving away millions of dollars each year shouldn't be easy or quick. And as the Fund Board currently operates, it's not. While area school districts and the Fund Board absolutely should continue to discuss ways to tweak the process for future years, wholesale changes aren't needed.