Norbert Turek: Steamboat education fund is ‘gold standard’
On Tuesday, the Summit Daily ran a story about how Breckenridge City Council had committed $8.8 million to build a fiber optic line that would be owned by the community. Town staff said that it was, “one of the first mountain communities to pursue a project like this.”
Only Steamboat got there in 2014. With funds from the city, county, Colorado, and, yes, the Steamboat Springs Education Fund, and the vision of a very few who believed it could be done, the Northwest Colorado Broadband coop broke CenturyLink’s monopoly on fiber data. It was a local achievement that also opened the door for towns like Breckenridge.
The local result? The cost of data to and between schools has dropped by nearly $200,000 a year, according to technology director Tim Miles. And mission-critical organizations like Yampa Valley Medical Center, Yampa Valley Electric Association and the Routt County Sheriff’s Office have access to redundant high-speed connectivity that is not throttled due to bandwidth.
Furthermore, location-neutral workers and local residents have access to data speeds that would otherwise be obnoxiously expensive or just unavailable in our remote area. For communities of choice, like Steamboat, bandwidth is as essential an asset as our trails, elk herds and clean water and air. For our schools, high speed data is an essential element for modern classrooms and high-placement student achievement.
Beyond visionary technology, the Steamboat Springs Education Fund is incredibly efficient — 90 percent programs-to-total funds is considered the gold standard, and the education fund is at 99 percent efficient; it is completely transparent — all grants and performance reports are available, and it is run entirely by community members.
This doesn’t even take into account a survey by the National Realtors Association, which shows that buyers will give up household amenities to live in the best school districts — a half cent pays huge returns in home value.
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First of all, a big thank you to Routt County businesses that require customers and staff to wear masks. When businesses do this, we not only feel safer, we are safer.