School staff watches ballot |

School staff watches ballot

Referendum 2A directly impacts district employment

Zach Fridell

Technology Integration Specialist Cammy Ravenscroft works at Soda Creek Elementary School on Thursday afternoon. Ravenscroft's salary is funded through Steamboat's half-cent sales tax for education.

More than two dozen Steamboat Springs School District employees will find themselves in a peculiar position Tuesday – the outcome of Referendum 2A could determine whether they have jobs in 2010.

Referendum 2A asks voters to extend the city’s half-cent sales tax for education. The tax revenues, administered by the Education Fund Board, pay the salaries of 16 teachers, six technology staff members, several counselors, English Language Learner teachers, gifted and talented coordinators and other staffers including the district grant writer.

District officials have acknowledged that if the tax fails, all programs currently funded by the tax will be up for review, and cuts likely will be made. The half-cent sales tax provides about $3 million a year for district salaries, programs and projects.

The fate of district employees paid through tax revenues is unclear.

“Absolutely everything would have to be reviewed,” Steamboat Springs School Board Vice President Denise Connelly said.

However, district officials acknowledge that some teachers and programs – such as the English as a Second Language program – would have to remain because of state and federal requirements.

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Other departments, including the district’s technology staff, are less clear.

Technology Director Tim Miles and his staff members are paid by revenues from the half-cent sales tax. Many of the district’s technology purchases also are funded by the tax. Last year, for example, the technology department received $1.4 million from the Education Fund Board.

Their uncertain status can’t help but weigh on the minds of district employees whose salaries are thus far dependent on the tax.

Senior network engineer Nancy Hebrank acknowledged Thursday that she is nervous about the outcome of the vote because of the potential impact on her job and the district’s technology.

“I am concerned. It would be a traumatic impact on the district,” she said. “And I’m concerned because that is what pays my paycheck.”

Technology integration specialist Cammy Ravenscroft, who took her position one year ago, said it was unnerving that her job could be cut based on the vote. Ravenscroft worked to set up the technology in the new Soda Creek Elementary School and assists teachers with everyday technology needs.

“I just came back to see that my job could go away in a year,” she said.

Ravenscroft said she has been “cautiously” campaigning for the passage of Referendum 2A.

Superintendent Shalee Cunningham said she is “absolutely confident” that Referendums 2A and 2B will pass, and she encouraged staff members directly affected by the vote to campaign for its passage.

“What I’m telling them right now is to go out and work on passing 2A and 2B and let the community know about the wonderful programs funded in our schools,” Cunningham said Friday.

The half-cent sales tax for education is funded through the end of 2009, meaning supporters could ask voters to renew it again next year if it is voted down Tuesday.

– To reach Zach Fridell, call 871-4208

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