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School board discusses MLO to fund free all-day kindergarten

Kindergartner Maya Peilet, right, visits with her classmate Gracey Keller, during the first day of school at Soda Creek Elementary in 2015.
Courtesy Photo

How a kindergarten mill levy works:

Under Colorado law, districts are able to ask voters to approve a levy specifically to fund all-day kindergarten. The amount raised would fluctuate each year based on the number of enrolled students at the school district Oct. 1, the official enrollment count date, and based on the state’s per-pupil funding amount for that year.

Typically the levy does not expire, but would not be assessed should the state begin funding full-day kindergarten.

The district, including North Routt Community Charter School, estimates 160 kindergarten students for 2015-16, though class size varies each year.

At 170 students, a mill levy would be set to generate $530,000 annually.

The levy would cost residential taxpayers $5.09 per $100,000 of assessed property value, or $25.45 on a $500,000 home.

The levy would cost commercial taxpayers $18.54 per $100,000 of assessed property value, or $92.70 on $500,000 commercial property.

See more estimates here.

— The Steamboat Springs Board of Education is considering whether to place a mill levy override on the November ballot specifically to fund all-day kindergarten.

On Friday, the board heard from Superintendent Brad Meeks about how such a levy would work, how much it would raise and a timeline to consider if the board wishes to put a question on this year’s ballot.

Currently, the state funds kindergarten at 58 percent of the cost per student.



The MLO would cover the remaining 42 percent, which districts currently either cover through the general fund or make up in tuition costs to families who wish to enroll in a full-day program.

How a kindergarten mill levy works:

Under Colorado law, districts are able to ask voters to approve a levy specifically to fund all-day kindergarten. The amount raised would fluctuate each year based on the number of enrolled students at the school district Oct. 1, the official enrollment count date, and based on the state’s per-pupil funding amount for that year.



Typically the levy does not expire, but would not be assessed should the state begin funding full-day kindergarten.

The district, including North Routt Community Charter School, estimates 160 kindergarten students for 2015-16, though class size varies each year.

At 170 students, a mill levy would be set to generate $530,000 annually.

The levy would cost residential taxpayers $5.09 per $100,000 of assessed property value, or $25.45 on a $500,000 home.

The levy would cost commercial taxpayers $18.54 per $100,000 of assessed property value, or $92.70 on $500,000 commercial property.

See more estimates here.

“I have heard a tremendous amount of support regarding all-day kindergarten,” said board member Joey Andrew.

In the past, the Steamboat Springs School District has charged families $2,400 annual tuition to cover the cost of the program. Though some scholarships were available, many proponents of free all-day kindergarten have argued that costs were a hardship for many families and that, often, the parents who couldn’t afford the all-day program have children who need the extra instructional time most.

“Many of our families live below the self-sufficiency standard for Routt County and cannot afford to pay for full-day kindergarten,” wrote Kate Nowak, executive director of Routt County United Way, in a recent letter to the board.

Last year, the district asked for $330,000 in funding from the Education Fund to help eliminate tuition for the 2015-16 school year, but this spring, the district prioritized other grant requests above free all-day kindergarten.

After again hearing strong support for a free program from Education Fund Board members, parents and social services leaders, the district absorbed much of the cost of the program into its regular budget, proposing a $750 annual tuition for 2016-17.

The cost was further reduced by an extra gift from the Education Fund, bringing tuition down to $600.

Throughout budget discussions this spring, district leaders assured community members they would explore a permanent solution to funding all-day kindergarten in the future, to avoid relying on Education Fund money or other budget variables.

Board members Friday wondered whether moving forward with a ballot question this year would have an impact on the work of the Community Committee for Education, or CC4E, which has indicated its interest in pursuing a ballot measure in 2017 to fund some type of facility improvements.

“The question is, will it have any effect on a bond referendum in 2017, and that, we don’t know,” Meeks said.

Board member Michelle Dover said if the board did propose a ballot question to fund all-day kindergarten, the use of the money should be specific and clear to voters, as opposed to a bond incorporating many different projects.

Board members voiced strong support for the merits of all-day kindergarten last week but didn’t vote or reach a consensus on whether to move forward with planning a ballot measure.

The board scheduled an extra meeting for July 13 to further discuss the potential for an MLO to fund free all-day kindergarten.

To reach Teresa Ristow, call 970-871-4206, email tristow@SteamboatToday.com or follow her on Twitter @TeresaRistow


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