DeVincentis airs concerns |

DeVincentis airs concerns

School Board member questions district's accountability in spending of half-cent sales tax revenue

Steamboat Springs school officials anticipate an Oct. 6 opening for the new Soda Creek Elementary School (background), although the school's new all-access playground won't be ready for use.
John F. Russell

— Editor’s note: Due to an editing error, the original version of this story incorrectly reported that John DeVincentis questioned the accountability of the volunteer Education Fund Board. Rather, DeVincentis questioned the school district’s accountability in how it spends half-cent sales tax revenue and whether the results of those expenditures are correctly being measured. A corrected version of the story will appear in Wednesday’s Steamboat Today.

Steamboat Springs School Board member John DeVincentis voted in favor of a resolution Monday supporting the renewal of the city’s half-cent sales tax for education, but he questioned whether the district is appropriately accountable for the money it spends from the Education Fund Board.

The renewal of the half-cent sales tax will go to voters in November, and the School Board is scheduled to review the accountability of how the money is spent during a Dec. 15 meeting.

“It concerns me that we are approving this without the accountability piece,” DeVincentis said, noting that he had asked the board to provide an accountability report before the tax was renewed.

“I am going to say that I’ve had grave concerns for a number of years about the half-cent sales tax, its use and that we don’t have a clue if some of the things we’re funding have made a difference, or if they’re going to make a difference,” he said.

DeVincentis said he had to support the resolution because of the message it would send if he voted against it.

The other board members approved the resolution without comment. The motion passed, 5-0.

The half-cent sales tax, which has been in effect since 1993, is used to fund a variety of education-related programs, including staff salaries, capital projects and technology purchases, among others. The tax now generates about $3 million a year.

Those revenues are allocated by the Education Fund Board, a group of community volunteers that also includes some School Board members.

DeVincentis has been critical of half-cent sales tax revenue expenditures in the past, specifically the allocation of $250,000 two years ago to help pay for the turf athletic field at Steamboat Springs High School.

On November’s ballot, voters also will be asked – in a separate question – whether they support sharing some of the sales tax revenue with the public school districts in South Routt and Hayden.

A community information session regarding the tax is at 5:30 p.m. today in the county commissioners room in the old Routt County Courthouse.

Also at Monday’s School Board meeting, the district’s mission statement was updated to comply with the Colorado Safe Schools Act.

A first reading of the new mission statement, approved by the Board, reads: “All students are learning in a safe environment and are prepared to succeed in an ever-changing world.” The board will hold a second reading and vote of approval on the mission statement at its October meeting.

In other action

– The board reviewed several of its policies and heard monitoring reports from Superintendent Shalee Cunningham and other district officials regarding the board’s compliance with its policies.

– The board was told that furniture is being moved into the new Soda Creek Elementary School, and the district remains on schedule for an Oct. 6 grand opening. Soda Creek Principal Judy Harris said volunteers are needed to help prepare the school for students. Although the new playground will not be ready for the first day of classes, Harris said the sod should be in place for students to have recess on their first day in the new building.

Furniture from the old building will be distributed first to district personnel, then to neighboring districts and the community, Cunningham said.

– The site of “Camp Soda Creek” – the temporary units near the district offices that were used during the construction of the new building – will be removed after the students move to their new building, and the area will revert to a park. Cunningham said electrical equipment placed on the site to serve the classrooms will remain and may be used for future outdoor concerts or events.

– The board began the evening with a half-hour executive session to discuss three potential lawsuits: one from former Steamboat Springs High School principal Mike Knezevich; another from a contractor regarding a construction bid; and one from the parents of a district student. Documents relating to those potential lawsuits will be released today, Cunningham said.

– To reach Zach Fridell, call 871-4208 or e-mail

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