Board discusses how to use funds | SteamboatToday.com

Board discusses how to use funds

Susan Cunningham

— Some Steamboat Springs Education Fund Board members said Wednesday night that more of the city’s half-cent sales tax for education should be used for small class sizes.

Voters approved the sales tax to fill several needs, including keeping classes small. They would be more likely to renew the tax before it expires in 2009, Fund Board members said, if they could clearly see how it had been spent to meet those needs.

But three School Board members who sit on the Fund Board cautioned against shifting spending.

If the Fund Board pays for teachers to keep small classes and lets the school district take over funding for administrative positions, teachers could be at risk if the sales tax for education weren’t renewed, School Board member Michael Loomis said.

School Board President Paula Stephenson said she thought the Fund Board was trying to direct policy. The Fund Board was “way out of line,” she said, for telling the School Board how to spend money.

Fund Board member Jerry Kozatch disagreed, saying he thought the Fund Board should use the funds for what it told taxpayers it would when the sales tax was approved.

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Several Fund Board members also said they thought the sales tax funds should be used for one-time needs and should not help support some administrative positions, such as the director of curriculum development or support specialists.

Fund Board members had talked with their respective committees, made up of community volunteers, about what those committees should fund before presenting their views.

Superintendent Donna How–ell emphasized that shifting how funds were being spent did not mean more funds would be spent on any one need.

Stephenson requested that Fund Board President Robin Crossan attend the next School Board meeting to give further explanation about the discussion. The School Board, she said, had been caught off guard by the conversation.

Fund Board members also continued an ongoing discussion about the reserves held by the Fund Board. The Fund Board has about $2 million — or a year’s worth of funding — in reserves.

Kozatch said Technology Commission members thought it would be appropriate to spend down that reserve on immediate needs, rather than holding on to it for fear it was going to go away.

Fund Board member Harry Lambart said the Education Excellence Commission members thought keeping a year’s worth of funding in reserves was appropriate, as it would help the school district if the sales tax were not renewed.

— To reach Susan Cunningham, call 871-4203 or e-mail scunningham@steamboatpilot.com