Status of Soroco school ballot question in doubt |

Status of Soroco school ballot question in doubt

The South Routt Board of Education will schedule a special meeting to reconsider whether to go forward with a ballot question intended to raise taxes to boost teacher and staff salaries after problems were found in the ballot language.

The South Routt County school board is expected to meet later this month to decide whether to "rescind" its ballot question, aimed at boosting teacher compensation, after learning the language in a formal ballot issue submitted to the Routt County Clerk's Office would not have allowed the district to raise the desired sum.

The mill levy override question asks voters to approve a mill levy override that would generate $250,000 annually for the next 10 years. The funding would be used to raise teacher and staff salaries across the board.

However, should the school board choose to withdraw the ballot question, it doesn't mean the question won't appear on ballots, which will be distributed to voters in advance of the Nov. 7 election.

Chief Deputy Routt County Clerk Tina Fry said the election ballots have already been printed, and ballots for military personnel and other voters in the district wishing to cast ballots from abroad have already been mailed out.

"They notified our office yesterday (Monday) there may be an issue with their ballot question," and that, "there is a possibility they are going to withdraw the ballot question withdraw the ballot question,” Fry said. "It is on the ballot, but we (would) not be counting the votes for that question. There's nothing we can do. The ballot is at the printer. It went out Sept. 22."

Soroco Superintendent Rim Watson contacted Steamboat Today Tuesday by telephone to inform the newspaper of the situation.

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"Due to difficulties with the ballot language," it "would not have caused us to be able to raise the (full) $250,000," Watson said.

Watson declined to explain the specific problem with the ballot language without going "off the record."

Asked whether the language had been drafted by an attorney, Watson responded that it had not.

"It came from my office," he said.

School Board President Jules Palyo said the details of the problems with the ballot issue will be made public when the school board meets to discuss the issue.

"We're still gathering information and that information needs to be shared with the board, so it would be premature to talk about it," Palyo said.

Just a day before the problems with the ballot surfaced, Watson spoke freely in a telephone interview about the need for the mill levy override, which according to ballot language would have had an impact of "$10 annually per $100,000," of residential property tax valuation. The ballot language did not describe the tax implications for owners of commercial property in the district.

Watson confirmed the money raised by the mill levy override would have been applied to the district's salary schedule from the bottom to the top.

The salary schedule approved by the school board for 2018 begins at $33,200 for a starting teacher, and $58,000 for faculty near the top of the scale, with a master's degree and 25 years of experience.

The problem at Soroco has not been so much that it hasn't been able to fill teacher openings, but that it hasn’t attracted enough candidates to give the district a choice in the hiring process, Watson said.

The school board’s vote to place the tax question on the ballot was unanimous.

Watson expressed his admiration for the current faculty but also described the difficulty his district experiences in attracting several qualified candidates for each opening.

He added that the decision-making process that led to the ballot question included a review of each step in the salary schedule and how it compared with similar school districts across the state.

"It's an awareness of the challenge of getting a strong interview pool," Watson said. “If you post a position, that's a reality – you get to accept, you don't get to select."

Fry confirmed that the Soroco School District will be billed to participate in the 2017 combined election, however that amount would be mitigated by the fact that the school district also has a school board election this fall.

To reach Tom Ross, call 970-871-4205, email or follow him on Twitter @ThomasSRoss1.

•Ballots for the all-mail Nov. 7 election will be sent to all  eligible voters the week of Oct. 16.

•Colorado law allows for same-day voter registration as long as the voter meets the 22 day residency requirement and can provide acceptable ID to vote their ballot.

Text of South Routt Schools ballot issue: general fund override

Shall South Rout School District No. RE-3 taxes be increased $250,000 annually for a limited ten-year period (commencing in collection year 2018 and ending after collection year 2027) in order to restore a portion of the district’s funding , prior to the cuts imposed by the state, which money shall be used to, among other things:

Attract and retain highly effective teachers and staff by increasing/offering salaries and wages to be more competitive with our neighboring districts.

Through a property tax override mill levy to be imposed in the amount estimated to be less than $10 annually per $100,000 of a home’s assessed value to produce the amount set forth above, to be deposited into the general fund of the district, and to be in addition to the property taxes that otherwise would be levied for the general fund?