South Routt voters asked to extend school district mill levy, partly to maintain bus fleet, add to teacher salaries
STEAMBOAT SPRINGS — The South Routt School District will ask voters Nov. 3 to extend an existing mill levy which is scheduled to expire.
If ballot measure 5A is passed, property owners will not see any increase in taxes rather a continuation of an existing tax.
About $800,000 is collected annually from the tax, said South Routt Board of Education President Jane Colby. If passed, future collections will be used to pay off construction bonds, as well as, according to the ballot language, “properly fund the ongoing maintenance of district facilities and continue a proper replacement cycle of the transportation fleet to improve safety and enhance reliability; and properly fund computer and technology access for all district students.”
Many of those upgrades and repairs are “sorely needed,” Colby said. The district’s newest bus is a 2009 model, and another has over 400,000 miles.
“We’ve been squeezing every drop out of our transportation fleet,” she said, noting the large geographical area covered.
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Other priority needs include upgrades to the athletic stadium, finishing asbestos remediation and replacing roofs, floors and carpeting.
The needs list is easily in the millions of dollars, she said.
Colby emphasized the importance of putting some of the funding from the mill levy also toward staff salaries. Finance laws limit that amount to about $200,000 annually out of the tax, she said.
“It is very important to us to have in place to be able to attract and retain quality teachers,” she said.
A property tax referendum was passed in 2018 dedicated specifically to staff salaries, which added $20.99 per year per $100,000 of assessed valuation for residential properties. However, Colby said South Routt continues to lag behind neighboring districts, as well as the state and national averages in terms of teacher salaries.
The 2018 tax increase made a difference, she said, but keeping salaries commensurate with increasing cost of living expenses — and retaining teachers — “is not doable without raising additional funds.”
If the mill levy is extended, residents will continue to pay $9.11 per year per $100,00 of assessed valuation under the existing mill levy. The tax was originally issued in 2000 and refinanced to a lower amount in 2014 due to lower interest rates. The ballot measure will extend the property tax mill levy until 2032.
Due to a decrease in state and federal funding and slightly lower enrollment as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, Colby said the district did scale back on some expenses, including staffing. Some of the increased pandemic-related costs were offset by grant funding, she said, though they will likely need to dip into their reserves this year and next.
To reach Kari Dequine Harden, call 970-871-4205, email kharden@SteamboatPilot.com or follow her on Twitter @kariharden.
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