Steamboat Springs Education Fund Board awards $3.2 million | SteamboatToday.com

Steamboat Springs Education Fund Board awards $3.2 million

— Revenue from Steamboat Spring's half-cent sales tax for education will benefit local school districts to the tune of more than $3 million throughout the next year, more than districts have received in at least five years.

The Steamboat Springs Education Fund Board approved final grant awards totaling $3.2 million during a meeting last week.

“The board felt that the awards made will continue to have a major impact on our schools' ability to fulfill their missions of providing an excellent education to all students," said Kristi Brown, education fund board president.

The awards were made after detailed requests totaling $3.4 million were submitted from school districts in Steamboat Springs, which requested $2.9 million in grants, South Routt, which requested $281,000, and Hayden, which requested $223,700.

The half-cent sales tax is generated through sales in Steamboat Springs only, but a lesser amount is shared with the two neighboring school districts.

Highlights of this year's grant cycle include the decision to fund full-day kindergarten in Steamboat Springs at a cost of $329,700.

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Through this year, the district has offered half-day kindergarten, which is funded by the state, for all students, but has charged a $2,400 annual tuition fee to families wishing to send their kindergarteners for a full day.

District officials had succeeded in securing some piecemeal scholarships from various local organizations to help families with financial hardships, but that funding is not guaranteed year to year.

The education fund board award eliminates the tuition for all families.

To fund the largest amount of grant requests possible, the education fund board last week decided to spend down a portion of the $500,000 unallocated placeholder fund they had agreed to hang onto during an April meeting.

Ultimately, that placeholder amount was dropped to $415,600 to allow the board to fund more of the district requests.

"After looking at the great needs identified in all three districts, we decided the money could do far more good being put to use in classrooms now than being saved for a rainy day," Brown said.

Other funded requests include $1 million for the salaries for the full-time-equivalent of 16 teachers and a separate $35,500 request for a part-time middle school French teacher, both in Steamboat, some funding of salaries for science and English teachers in South Routt and several hundred thousand dollars worth of technology upgrades for every district.

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