Education Fund board receives close to $6M in requests for tech, more staffing
STEAMBOAT SPRINGS — Awaiting approval in May, Routt County school districts and nonprofits have made their annual requests for funding to the Steamboat Springs Education Fund board.
Each year, the board distributes millions of dollars collected through the half-cent sales tax, most recently renewed in 2018 with more than 85% of the vote.
When it was initiated in 1993, the tax generated about $200,000. Today it provides more than $4 million for the county’s three school districts, Mountain Village Montessori School as well as nonprofits with educational programming.
When the tax was up for renewal in 2008, voters approved a separate referendum sharing the funding outside of Steamboat.
Currently, about 80% of the tax revenue goes to the Steamboat Springs School District, about 15% is awarded to Hayden and South Routt school districts and 3% to 4% benefits nonprofits.
For the 2020-21 school year, about $5.8 million in requests have been submitted. The board will not set the budget, which is essentially a forecast of projected sales tax collection, until its March meeting.
Last school year, the board approved about $4.25 million out of $4.53 million in requests, including $30,000 in administrative fees.
There are always more items requested than available funds. The ultimate funding decisions are made by the fund’s 11-person volunteer board of directors, based on recommendations from the fund’s grants commission, whose 11 members review every application.
With the schools and community groups knowingly requesting more than they will get, the commission and board then have the ability to make some determinations about where the funding is most needed and what programs they want to support, according to Education Fund Administrator Sarah Katherman.
While it has evolved over time and changed with cuts in state funding, the majority of the funding today goes toward “annual augmentation to programs, technology and class size reduction.”
The fund plays a huge role in supporting technology in all three districts, Katherman said.
The fund also contributes significantly to salaries. In recent years at Steamboat, it has funded about 17 to 20 full-time employees.
The process involves school leaders identifying the greatest areas of need and compiling a wish list.
The Hayden School District submitted requests totaling about $260,000, including technology hardware and software purchases and salaries for intervention and paraprofessional staffing. For the 2019-20 school year, Hayden received $196,000 from the fund out of $226,200 requested.
South Routt School District requested $259,000 in funding to cover technology hardware, as well as salaries for a math teacher, instructional coach and a college/career counselor. Last year, $159,260 was granted to South Routt out of $179,800 requested.
Montessori requested $177,500, primarily for salaries.
Steamboat, which includes North Routt Community Charter School, submitted $4.37 million in requests. Last year, they were granted $3.06 million out of $3.21 million in requests.
Steamboat’s requests include just over $1 million in technology-related requests, and salary funding for about 30 full- or part-time employees. Requests for things related to programming and facilities total around $500,000.
Some of the new salary requests relate to increased support around mental health, counseling, exceptional services, intervention and bi-literacy programming.
Eleven community groups and nonprofits requested a total of just over $226,000. Last year, nine groups were granted $153,000.
In February, the commission reviewed the requests from community groups. In March, the commission will discuss those from the school districts. Fine-tuning comes in April — after the budget is set, Katherman said, with final decisions made in May.
All money is allocated as a reimbursement. The schools and groups spend it first, show the Education Fund a receipt matching the original request and then are reimbursed.
Information about requests, including each application, is available on the Education Fund’s website.
To reach Kari Dequine Harden, call 970-871-4205, email kharden@SteamboatPilot.com or follow her on Twitter @kariharden.
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