Steamboat Springs Education Fund Board must trim more than $585,000 from grant requests | SteamboatToday.com

Steamboat Springs Education Fund Board must trim more than $585,000 from grant requests

— Education Fund Board grant requests for Steamboat, South Routt and Hayden school districts will have to be pared down more than $585,000 for the 2015-16 school year.

The Fund Board predicts it will have an extra $522,000 to spend over what it had in the 2014-15 year, but districts have increased their grant requests so significantly that careful trimming still must happen.

Fund Board members discussed these amounts and what to hold in an unallocated cash flow "cushion" fund during its meeting Wednesday night.

The board and its commission are charged with deciding how best to spend Steamboat's half-cent sales tax for education, which is used to primarily support programs in Steamboat schools, though a smaller portion of the funding is also shared with South Routt and Hayden school districts.

The Steamboat Springs School District has requested grants totaling $2.89 million, while Hayden has requested roughly $223,000 and South Routt has asked for $281,000.

The school district grants are awarded addition to community group grants and education-related innovation grants also handed out by the Fund Board and its commission throughout the year, which all are part of a $3.8 million annual budget for 2015-16.

One of the most discussed grant applications this year is Steamboat's request to fund full-day kindergarten.

Currently, the state funds 0.58 percent of the day for kindergarteners, while Steamboat parents pay $2,400 annually if they want their children to attend for a full-day, rather than a half-day program. The district has helped secure scholarship funding from numerous sources for families with a financial hardship, but the scholarships aren't guaranteed.

The district is seeking $329,000 to fund the full-day program for all students, replacing the tuition and scholarship fees the district currently collects.

The Fund Board discussed the request Wednesday during a first reading of the grant requests, but it won't make any decisions until a future meeting.

The board had a lengthy discussion about whether to use some of the $522,000 increase it projects for 2015-16 to boost an unallocated cash flow fund that usually sits at $500,000.

After numerous suggestions about whether to increase or decrease this fund, or whether to begin a new reserve fund or a capital projects fund, the board voted to keep the status quo, with a $500,000 unallocated fund.

The fund is used as a safety cushion to balance tax revenues coming to the Fund Board and payments going out to districts.

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