Brian T. Kelly: URA raises concerns
As a former Steamboat Springs School Board member and longtime volunteer for the RE-2 School District, I have been following the developments of the proposed downtown URA and TIF with some concern. My concerns are as follows:
■ Is this the best expenditure of the money? By forming a URA and using the Tax Incremental Financing method, local municipalities essentially take money from the counties and school districts in the same area. To this date, $760 million of the $880 million “Negative Factor” for primary education is attributable to the formation of URAs and TIFs. In other words, the state of Colorado attempts to backfill the money that would normally go to school districts statewide as these URA’s are formed and the price tag statewide is $760 million. As we approach spending limits dictated by the TABOR and Gallagher amendments, where will the money come from to fund our school districts in the future? We as a local city are making a conscious choice to spend money designated for education on sidewalks, water, sewer and roads instead of schools. To this date, the state of Colorado has attempted to backfill this money, but as it reaches it spending limits, what will happen to school funding? Or to the URAs?
■ Does our city spend money wiser than RE-2? Let’s see … in the last eight years, we have had the Iron Horse Inn, the Gloria Gossard Parkway, a three-year search for a police station and, in the last several months, let’s add on legal defense of police brutality claims, $110 an hour consultants to investigate the leadership of the police department, $6,000 a month for a respected public spokesperson …. and the list goes on and on. On the other hand, our school districts statewide are funded somewhere in the mid-40s out of 50 states. RE-2 by a number of measurements is a top five school district in this state. The high school was ranked one of the top 700 in the nation two years ago. RE-2 was funded 90th in the state out of 174 school districts. And it produces top five results. It has been Accredited with Distinction for several years and counting.
■ The high ranking of the school district continues to attract young couples to this area. They are the location-neutral business people that have been well documented in the Steamboat Pilot & Today. This influx of people has not just stabilized our tax base and population, but continued to increase them both. Destination tourism has been down for several years as a trend, but city sales tax revenue continues to climb. Why would you jeopardize a sure bet economic driver such as a high-quality school district for the uncertainty of a URA that may or may not drive sales tax revenue?
■ The state of Colorado has long been prone to going after the successful mountain resort school districts when push comes to shove. One need look no further than the failed Amendment 66 from two years ago.
Think about this in its most basic sense. One local government entity is taking money from two other local government entities in the hopes that a state with limited financial resources will continue to backfill the school districts. I urge all concerned citizens to contact their council members to reconsider any formation of a URA that would affect school or county revenues.
Brian T. Kelly
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