Jim Gill: Plan has shortcomings | SteamboatToday.com

Jim Gill: Plan has shortcomings

With ongoing voting on the 3A, 3B bond issue, it seems like the details of every pro/con position on this matter have already been publicly aired and debated. But as a former Steamboat Springs School District School Board member and past president of the Steamboat Springs Education Fund, it occurred to me that there are two important elements of this issue which have received little or no discussion from either side since these campaigns began — one related to current district facilities, the other to 3A, 3B funding.

The original Steamboat Springs Education Fund 1/2 percent taxing authority approved in 1992 resulted in by-laws that called for 40 percent of annual revenues to be used for “growth” requirements of the district. In order to fulfill this commitment to taxpayers, we purchased a 35.15-acre parcel of land on the west side of town in 1997 for future growth needs and then immediately gifted it to the district.

Since no use of this site is included in the 3A, 3B bond issue, which supporters recently described as a “facilities master plan” for the district, I have to assume there are some legitimate reasons for this omission: site is too small, it’s outside city limits, has limited Highway 40 access, etc.

Since there was also no inclusion of the 9.2-acre district-owned site in Whistler Meadows in the “facilities master plan,” I have to further assume there are also legitimate reasons why this site doesn’t meet any facility needs of the district. If “somebody” has determined that neither of these sites is suitable for any future district use, why not include the sale of these sites in a facilities master plan?

Further, since the Boys and Girls Club would move to the Strawberry Park campus under the 3A, 3B plan, does it make sense to spend more money to “expand and improve” the aging Seventh Street facility rather than selling it and incorporating the YVHS, district offices and kitchen at some other “upgraded” district site?

The Education Fund 1/2 percent sales tax revenue has had a significant and positive impact on the educational needs of our students. With an approximate

$3.2 million annual revenue stream from tax receipts and a student population of approximately 2,500, our district currently has approximately $1,280 of resources to spend “per pupil” outside of the state funding formula.

I was actively involved in the creation/operation of the fund for many years — enhancing the quality of education for our students above what would have otherwise been allowed under the state funding formula was always the objective of our allocation process.

Today, the fund clearly states on its website that enhancing “academic accomplishment in Routt County through student facing investments in staff, facilities, infrastructure, …” is their mission. So, why is it that there is zero allocated from the fund to pay for any of the “facilities” projects included in the facilities master plan?

Clearly, fund resources were never expected to fully fund a new school. And I’m certain the fund board/commission members would claim 100 percent of their revenue has already been allocated to other “educational” needs. But if the facility master plan is so critical to the future education of our students, why is it the education fund has been unable or unwilling to provide any funding support for these projects?

Given these shortcomings of the proposed 3A, 3B bond issue and the current facility master plan, I suggest voting “no” on this issue until the matters discussed above have been addressed in an improved plan.

Jim Gill

Steamboat Springs Board of Education member, 1992 to 1999

Steamboat Springs Education Fund president, 1993 to 1999, 2000 to 2001

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