Steamboat School Board candidates divided on Prop 103 | SteamboatToday.com

Steamboat School Board candidates divided on Prop 103

— The two candidates in Steamboat Springs' only contested school board race have different opinions about Proposition 103, a tax initiative that would raise an estimated $2.9 billion for Colorado's public schools over five years by raising the state's sales and income taxes.

Sandra Sharp, a Colorado Mountain College adjunct faculty member, opposes the tax initiative, while her opponent Rebecca Williams, a technology consultant at Christian Heritage School, said Monday that she will vote for the measure in the November election.

Sharp said she cannot support a tax increase during a time of economic instability. She also said she didn't support Proposition 103 because it does not specify how the revenue it would generate for public schools in Colorado would be distributed.

"What looks like a good thing could end up being a negative influence," she said.

Sharp said increasing the amount of money a school district can spend on each of its students has not been proven to increase a student's academic achievement. She said she supports finding other ways to increase funding for education but questioned whether a tax increase was a viable solution at this time.

"At a time when the economy is so fragile, and without a proven correlation between increased funding for school districts and an increase in a student's academic performance, Proposition 103 could come back to bite us," she said.

Williams, a former Steamboat Springs High School teacher, disagreed. She said increased funding to school districts does help to improve student achievement. She said additional revenue is needed in the Steamboat Springs School District to support programs administrators have considered discontinuing in the wake of reductions in state funding. Williams said those programs include fine arts class offerings and the option of offering both Spanish and French classes at the high school level.

"I know (Proposition 103) can save programs that provide more opportunities for our students that I don't want to see go away," she said.

Williams said school boards have a responsibility to outline the desired outcomes they would fund with an increase in revenue.

Unopposed Steamboat school board candidates Robin Crossan and Wayne Lemley have expressed support for the tax initiative. Proposition 103 also has been unanimously endorsed by the Steamboat Springs and South Routt school boards.

If passed by voters in November, Proposition 103 would raise an estimated $532 million in its first year of passage by raising the state's income tax rate from 4.63 percent to 5 percent, and the sales and use tax rate from 2.9 to 3 percent until 2017.

However, it's still unclear how that revenue would be distributed among schools in Colorado. If current state funding formulas are followed, the Colorado Center on Law and Policy estimates the tax increase could generate $1.2 million annually for the Steamboat Springs School District.

The Legislative Council of the Colorado General Assembly estimates the tax increase would cost a single person who makes $35,000 annually an extra $101 each year until 2017. Those who earn $70,000 annually can expect to see their taxes increase an extra $180 until 2017 if it passes, and married couples who file jointly with an annual income of $125,000 will see an increase of $315.

To reach Scott Franz, call 970-871-4210 or email scottfranz@SteamboatToday.com