Our View: Lesson learned | SteamboatToday.com

Our View: Lesson learned

Soroco School District leaders learned a hard lesson last week when they discovered the ballot language they submitted for their November 2017 mill levy measure was incorrect.

Specifically, the superintendent added a paragraph to the ballot language that miscalculated the financial impact the measure would have had on taxpayers. As a result, the school board was forced to pull the issue off the ballot. Because the ballots have already been printed, the issue will appear on the actual ballot but votes will not be counted.

We do not intend to lambast anyone for the mistake. Instead, we express only our disappointment that Soroco voters won't have the opportunity to consider a tax levy proposal that we think held a lot of merit.

We'd also encourage other districts to take heed and make sure they seek out the experts — in this case, bond counsel with experience writing complicated ballot language — to avoid costly and potentially embarrassing mistakes going forward.

It was too early to editorialize on Soroco's proposed Referendum 3B, but in early discussions, the editorial board seemed to be leaning favorably toward support of the measure.

The intent of the ballot issue was to boost teacher compensation through approval of a mill levy override that was intended to generate $250,000 annually for the next 10 years. This tax funding would have been used to increase teacher and staff salaries across the board in an effort to bolster the district's recruitment efforts.

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Soroco, like many smaller, more rural districts across Colorado, is faced with the challenge of attracting new teachers to its faculty ranks with a lower salary schedule than larger, more urban districts, including nearby Steamboat Springs.

According to an April 13 article in the Denver Post, the teachers shortage in Colorado had reached a "crisis" level entering the 2017-18 school year with 3,000 new teachers needed to fill existing slots in Colorado classrooms while the number of graduates from teacher-preparation programs in the state has declined by 24.4 percent over the past five years.

With this teacher shortage in mind, we think raising taxes to increase teachers salaries, as proposed in the now rescinded Refendum 3B, would improve Soroco's competitive advantage, making the school more attractive to teacher candidates and widening its interview pool, which in turn has the potential to positively impact teacher retention, curriculum and student performance.

We recognize the challenges faced by smaller, rural school districts, and we trust Soroco school administrators and board members will learn from last week's misstep.

And as the district moves forward, we sincerely hope the school board will consider placing the mill levy question back on the ballot in 2018, and district voters will be patient and support the measure to give Soroco teachers and staff a well-deserved salary boost.

At issue: A mistake in ballot language forced the South Routt School Board to rescind Refendum 3B.

Our view: It was an unfortunate mistake but Soroco school leaders must move on and begin plans to place the ballot measure back before voters in 2018.

Editorial Board
• Suzanne Schlicht, COO and publisher
• Lisa Schlichtman, editor
• Jim Patterson, evening editor
• Tom Ross, reporter
• Beth Melton, community representative
• Bob Weiss, community representative
Contact the editorial board at 970-871-4221 or editor@SteamboatToday.com.