Fund Board discussed | SteamboatToday.com

Fund Board discussed

School Board to address whether it is directing policy

Susan Cunningham

— Whether or not the Steamboat Springs Education Fund Board is trying to direct district policy will be discussed tonight.

The Steamboat Springs School Board has set aside two hours of its meeting, from 8 to 10 p.m., to look at the issue.

“I think this is an important discussion for the district, and I’d like to get some clarity … on how the (Education Fund Board) got to this point,” School Board President Paula Stephenson said.

The Fund Board, which administers the city’s half-cent sales tax for education, discussed last Wednesday whether it should make changes to what it funds.

A number of Fund Board members said they felt more funds should be used for small class sizes. The sales tax for education is coming up for renewal, and some said it’s important that voters see that the Fund Board is doing what was asked of it.

Stephenson has asked Fund Board President Robin Crossan to attend tonight’s School Board meeting. She said she hoped other Fund Board members and the public show up for the discussion.

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Crossan said the key question the Fund Board has been looking at relates to whether it should cover salaries for several director positions. How the sales tax for education funds is spent can change from year to year, so it may make more sense to fund those positions from the School District’s general fund to ensure those people are employed, she said.

The Fund Board may take over the funding of more teacher positions — which relates to its voter-approved purpose of allowing for smaller classes — and let the school district support the director positions.

“All we are doing is swapping dollars — it all still goes into the same pot,” Crossan said. “It’s not directing policy at all in any of our minds.”

But Stephenson disagreed, saying such shifting of funds is akin to playing a “dangerous political game.”

It is not up to the Fund Board to decide whether the School Board is spending its funds the right way, she said.

The School Board has carefully looked at its budget for the past two years and feels that everything it spends money on is necessary to run the school district, she said. The Fund Board pays for remaining needs.

Stephenson said the director positions have been filled with the understanding that if the sales tax for education goes away, those positions could go away, too. If the Fund Board paid for more teachers’ salaries instead of the director positions, there could be less certainty for those teaching positions.

Each year, school district administrators look at what needs could be assisted with funding from the Fund Board and make requests to the board.

The district rec–ently completed a number of audits to guide those requests. Stephenson said she feels the Fund Board’s discussions on what it should fund is a move away from the direction provided in those reports.

Crossan said the Fund Board is independent of the School Board. Although the School Board can advise it, neither board can demand anything of the other.

The discussion on what the Fund Board should pay for and how has been ongoing for several years, Crossan said. About two years ago, members took a hard look at whether the Fund Board was doing what voters asked.

“We’re all here working for one thing, and that’s the good of the students in our community,” Crossan said.

The School Board meets at 6:30 p.m. tonight in the administration building at Seventh and Oak streets. The discussion on the Education Fund Board is scheduled to begin at 8 p.m.

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