South Routt schools secure $1M in emergency state funds
Oak Creek — South Routt School District leaders are feeling some relief this week after securing a $1 million loan from the Colorado State Board of Education on Thursday.
The loan will help cover lost revenue the district had counted on from Peabody Energy, which has filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection and failed to pay property taxes in June.
South Routt Superintendent Darci Mohr said the state board believes helping South Routt through its financial pinch was an ideal use of the board’s $1 million contingency fund.
“They said that this is exactly what the contingency is set aside for,” Mohr said. “They felt that it was very important that this money went toward (us).”
The state board voted 7-0 in favor of giving the contingency funds to South Routt.
Mohr said the Colorado Department of Education plans to ask the Colorado legislature for money to refill the contingency fund, and she said if Peabody continues to impact the district with future unpaid taxes, South Routt may return to the State Board of Education for more money.
Mohr said the district would pay back the money to the state when Peabody pays its taxes, with the debt forgiven if the taxes aren’t paid within five years.
If estimates on student count for this fall hold true, Mohr said the district should be able to get through the 2016-17 school year on the money from the state board, as well as state per-pupil funding, which the district is receiving in an early lump sum over the summer.
Peabody Energy last week filed a motion in federal court in St. Louis, Missouri, to allow the entity to pay nearly $30 million in property taxes as part of its bankruptcy proceedings.
“Peabody is a long-time employer in Routt County, and we pride ourselves on being a good neighbor,” said Peabody leaders in a statement Friday. “We’ve been made aware of the difficult situation caused by property tax payments missed as a result of our Chapter 11 filing, and have asked the court to authorize payment of property taxes. We expect the matter to be heard during a hearing later this month and look forward to the court’s decision.”
The company’s request is expected to be heard in federal court July 20.
While the South Routt School District may be suffering the most immediate financial hardship because of the missed payments, other entities in South Routt, including the South Routt Medical Center Health Services District, West Routt Fire Protection and other entities are impacted.
The South Routt Medical Center is looking at about $55,000 in lost revenue, and the Health Services District will discuss the impacts during a board meeting in Oak Creek Tuesday night.
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