Steamboat Springs Education Fund Board: Investing in future of Steamboat schools
Steamboat Springs, we have a problem. Since 2009, Steamboat Springs School District has lost more than $20 million in state funding. Essentially, since the recession, the state has pulled education dollars from districts across Colorado to balance the state budget.
The Steamboat Springs School District responded by cutting budgets and focusing funds on student-facing initiatives. What suffered were our school facilities.
As a community, we have a responsibility to ensure our students have a quality learning environment. Decaying facilities such as leaky roofs, unsafe bleachers and turf, inadequate ventilation and outdated heating and cooling systems affect learning as well students and staff morale.
Some have recently asked if Steamboat Springs Education Fund should be responsible for covering these capital and maintenance items. The purpose of Steamboat Springs Education Fund has always been to broadly support education, initially within Steamboat Springs School District, and, as of the 2009 election, in all of Routt County —Hayden, South Routt, North Routt Community Charter School and Mountain Village Montessori School.
In the past, the Education Fund has funded projects including partial support for the athletic field turf at Steamboat Springs High School, the Steamboat Springs Middle School climbing wall and the front entrance, two modular units, as well as land acquisition. However, the bulk of proceeds from the half-cent sales tax since the inception of the fund in the early ’90s has been spent directly on teachers, technology and programming intended to lead to higher student achievement.
The Education Fund is an integral source of revenue for Steamboat Springs School District, and increasingly so for our neighboring school districts as well.
Here is how it works. Steamboat Springs School District applies to the Education Fund for grants to fund the district’s most critical needs, needs that cannot be covered with per-pupil funding. Education Fund funding represents over 12 percent of the annual operating budget for the Steamboat Springs School District.
Last year, to support the goal of smaller class sizes and at the request of the district, the Education Fund paid the salaries of 17 full-time teachers and virtually the entire technology budget. In addition, the Education Fund funded other critical programming through our Community Grants and Innovation Grants.
Simply put, the Education Fund doesn’t have additional money available to cover capital expenses without sacrificing teachers and class size. The Education Fund is not extra revenue for our local schools; districts depend on this annual funding for basic academic necessities.
Steamboat Springs School District is asking voters to consider a 7-year, $12.9 million bond and $1 million ongoing mill levy for the district’s most critical capital renewal projects as well as to provide a permanent source of capital construction funding allowing the district to promptly address future maintenance projects. The entire annual revenue of the Education Fund, to be shared with all schools in Routt County, would only meet one-quarter of the funding requested by Steamboat School District bond and mill levy.
Investing in education is a long-term strategy for our community. Research shows that families choose communities based on the quality of local schools, public services, parks and other amenities. Investing in our schools today supports the economic vitality of the community, enhances community desirability and increases property values.
Supporting our schools now, is a necessary and local effort.
Sam Jones, Jay O’Hare, Cristina Magill, Norbert Turek, Jill Brabec, Jeanne Mackowski, Kandise Gilbertson, Alissa Merage, Adam Alspach, Jon Wade, Chris Johnson
Steamboat Springs Education Fund Board members
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