Meeting the candidates |

Meeting the candidates

Steamboat City Council, School Board prospects discuss education

Steamboat Springs School Board candidate Rebecca Williams speaks at a forum hosted by First Impressions of Routt County on Wednesday afternoon. She is running against Sandra Sharp, middle. Wayne Lemley, left, is running unopposed for a seat on the School Board.
John F. Russell

— Candidates for the Steamboat Springs City Council and School Board started to distinguish themselves from one another Wednesday at a candidate forum hosted by First Impressions of Routt County.

Candidates kicked off the forum by talking about the importance of early childhood education in Routt County, but their discussions quickly pivoted toward school funding, affordable housing and the effects of oil and gas exploration when audience members asked questions.

School Board candidates Wayne Lemley, Sandra Sharp and Rebecca Williams and City Council candidates Rich Levy, Scott Myller, Sonja Macys, Dave Moloney, John Fielding and Daryl Levin attended the forum at the Routt County Courthouse. City Council candidates Bart Kounovsky and Kevin Kaminski and School Board candidate Robin Crossan did not attend the forum.

Audience member Catherine Carson asked the candidates whether they support Proposition 103, a ballot initiative that would raise the state’s sales and income taxes to increase funding for public schools. District 3 council candidates Macys and Moloney had different opinions about the tax hike, which would raise an estimated $532 million for Colorado schools in its first year of passage.

“I do not support it because I don’t think it will accomplish the desired effect of increasing revenue for education,” Moloney said. “The economy is so strained right now, and this would raise income taxes on every single person in this room.”

Macys said that she supported the tax increase.

“Our community has shown great support for education, and I think this is something our schools need,” she said.

School Board District 5 candidates Sharp and Williams said they still weren’t ready to endorse or oppose the tax increase.

“Our schools need more revenue. … But my concern is that there is no guarantee the money is coming to our schools here,” Williams said.

Sharp, an adjunct professor at Colorado Mountain College, said she also has concerns about how the money would be distributed.

“It’s definitely not a perfect proposition, but it’s the one we have, and it’s the one we will vote on,” she said. Sharp and Williams said they would take a position next month after they’ve researched the ballot initiative.

Hope Cook, a prenatal nurse at the Northwest Colorado Visiting Nurse Association, asked City Council candidates how they would address housing needs for oil and gas workers who would come with an potential oil and gas boom in Routt County.

Levy stressed the need for more affordable housing and said that he disagreed with the current City Council’s decision to scale back inclusionary zoning regulations, which mandate that developers set aside part of their developments for affordable housing, as well as linkage fees, which compensate the city for housing needs created by development. Myller, Levy’s opponent for the District 1 seat, said the restrictions were lifted to promote economic development and were detrimental to some businesses.

Before the forum, members of the First Impressions Early Childhood Council met to discuss Routt County’s need for additional early childhood education funding.

“We have the partnerships we need in place with the city the county and the school district, but funding remains a barrier for us as we try to give low-income families financial assistance to access child care and preschools,” First Impressions Director Stephanie Martin said.

Martin said that an average of 200 Routt County families each year receive a total of $205,000 in assistance from First Impressions for child care and preschool and that the funds are provided by the city of Steamboat Springs, Routt County and Routt County United Way.

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