Soroco teachers will have to wait to 2018 for vote on tax to raise salaries | SteamboatToday.com

Soroco teachers will have to wait to 2018 for vote on tax to raise salaries

The South Routt School Board voted to withdraw a tax question from the 2017 ballot.

OAK CREEK — The faculty and staff of the South Routt School District will have to wait at least another year to find out if district voters will vote to tax themselves to increase salaries across the board.

The school board voted unanimously Thursday night in a special meeting to withdraw its ballot question seeking to raise property taxes because of an arithmetic error in the ballot language.

"It's definitely a disappointment," school board member Bob Logan said. "The good news is, it's a setback for (just) 12 months."

The property tax override mill levy, which sought to increase taxes in the school district by $250,000 annually for 10 years, was being counted on to raise the school's salary schedule to help make the school district more competitive in the recruitment and retention of teachers.

Soroco Superintendent Rim Watson said after the special meeting Thursday night that he miscalculated the financial impact the measure would have had on taxpayers in a paragraph he authored and added to the language written by a veteran Denver bond attorney.

The ballot question was sent to the Routt County Clerk's Office, and the deadline for submitting or making changes has passed. The ballots have already been printed, according to Chief Deputy Clerk Tina Fry.

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Watson explained to the school board his math error caused him to understate the increase in taxes property owner would experience if the question was approved. He estimated the tax increase for residential property owners in the school district would be "less than $10 annually per $100,000 of  a home's assessed value" to generate the $250,000

He later learned that that the $10 on residential valuation (commercial property valuations weren't mentioned in the ballot language) would have generated just $114,000 annually for salaries, instead of the hoped-for $250,000.

"The calculation in my office was not correct," he said during the public meeting.

A more accurate tax impact number would have been $19 per $100,000 of valuation, Watson added.

Watson told the board that he had made the rounds of people who had advocated for the tax increase to make his apologies.

School Board President Jules Palyo gave Watson a vote of approval.

"I can't say enough about Rim," Palyo said. "When he says the buck stops here," he means it. "There's a board here, I read (the ballot language). I could have done the math. Rim, this isn't solely on you. There's been no pointing of fingers; let's just move on."

Watson added that when the district's bond attorney was informed of the superintendent's addition to the ballot language, he suggested that type of information is better suited to an informal "blue book" summary of the ballot question.

Leaving the ballot as is was not an option, Watson said, because the incorrect math would open the results to the possibility of a challenge after the election.

To reach Tom Ross, call 970-871-4205, email tross@SteamboatToday.com or follow him on Twitter @ThomasSRoss1.

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