Board looks at worst outcome | SteamboatToday.com

Board looks at worst outcome

Zach Fridell

With Election Day just two weeks away, the Steamboat Springs School Board painted a gloomy picture of program and staff cuts should city voters reject Referendum 2A on the Nov. 4 ballot.

Discussing the worst-case scenario during their meeting Monday night, board members and half-cent sales tax for education supporters warned that a decrease in funding would have far-reaching implications.

“I think Steamboat is, of course, a wonderful place to live – that’s why we all live here,” said Kristi Brown, who has worked on the campaign for the sales tax renewal. “If Steamboat becomes less than a high-performing school district, I think you will see an exodus of families that can afford to go elsewhere.”

Board members agreed the district would have a different look if the tax extension measure doesn’t pass.

“We have been able to offer programs on the level of a large district because of the level of our support,” board Vice President Denise Connelly said. “If we have to go back and operate on a small school district budget … all these programs will be severely impacted.”

Board President Robin Crossan acknowledged the discussion was “a little premature” but referenced e-mails the board has received from community members as the reason for the discussion.

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Board member Laura Anderson said she responded to e-mails from the community by compiling a list of possibilities.

“I put together these talking points when we started to get all the e-mails, and I believe that truly if we ever get to the point where we’re reducing our budget by a million dollars or more, we need to look at several things,” including benefit to students, cost to the district and what is mandated by law, she said.

The half-cent sales tax brings in about $3 million to the district every year through the city’s Education Fund.

The board did not list any specific programs it would cut should Referendum 2A fail, but Connelly suggested the board would create a reduction-in-force list to prioritize staff cuts.

“The reduction-in-force list that we have had before in the district, in bad economic times, showed where people were on a list, and they knew what their status was as far as seniority and that sort of thing,” she said.

The half-cent sales tax pays for the salaries of a dozen district teachers.

The sales tax, which equates to 5 cents on a $10 purchase, has been in place since 1993 and has been renewed twice, in 1996 and 1999. This measure, if passed, would renew the tax until 2019.

– To reach Zach Fridell, call 871-4208

or e-mail zfridell@steamboatpilot.com