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Steamboat Springs Education Fund Board to elect officers tonight

Brown in line for presidency; group to address Open Meetings Law

Agenda highlights

5:30 p.m. Call to order; public comment; commission reports

6 p.m. Potential election of proposed new officers, including President Kristi Brown, Vice President Mark Andersen, Secretary Don Schwartz and Treasurer Dean Massey

6:10 p.m. Board member appointments

6:30 p.m. Approval of accounting services contract

6:45 p.m. Acceptance of an amendment to the Fund Board’s memorandum of understanding with the city of Steamboat Springs

7:05 p.m. Adoption of Resolution in support of Coloradans for Responsible Reform

7:15 p.m. Adjournment

Agenda highlights

5:30 p.m. Call to order; public comment; commission reports

6 p.m. Potential election of proposed new officers, including President Kristi Brown, Vice President Mark Andersen, Secretary Don Schwartz and Treasurer Dean Massey

6:10 p.m. Board member appointments



6:30 p.m. Approval of accounting services contract

6:45 p.m. Acceptance of an amendment to the Fund Board’s memorandum of understanding with the city of Steamboat Springs



7:05 p.m. Adoption of Resolution in support of Coloradans for Responsible Reform

7:15 p.m. Adjournment

— Brown is set to lead, not oppose, a board of education.

The Steamboat Springs Edu­cation Fund Board is slated tonight to elect new officers, including longtime member Kristi Brown as its new president. Current President Mark Andersen is poised for a shift to the vice presidency. Don Schwartz likely will be the new secretary, and Dean Massey likely will be the new treasurer of the Fund Board, which administers the city’s half-cent sales tax for education.

Andersen said Brown’s experience makes her fit to lead the nonprofit organization. Brown said she’s been involved with the Fund Board for about six years, including serving on its Capital Commission and on the board itself.

She said the economic recession and the city’s corresponding decline in sales tax revenue have made that service harder.

“As we’ve had some tough economic times, we’ve had to really look a lot closer at all the requests that come before the board than we’ve ever had to do before,” Brown said. “It’s been tough; it’s been challenging. It’s not been fun, at times.

“We’ve really had to re-evaluate what it is we’re here for and what role we play in public education in Routt County.”

That role could mean leaner allocations and fewer large-scale capital projects in coming years. Brown said the Fund Board allocated about $2.2 million for the 2010-11 academic year, spread across the three Routt County school districts, and had about $945,000 in its reserves as of June. Those reserves could dip to $881,000 by next June, she said.

“We’ll have a better idea of what we’re looking at as sales tax comes in over the next few months,” she said.

Reserve spending long has been a contentious issue on the Fund Board. While the group gained some leeway when citizens renewed the half-cent sales tax through 2019 in a landslide November 2008 vote, Brown said she still would like to see a larger reserve fund.

“I would like to see the reserves built up as we are able to do so, without a great deal of pain,” Brown said. “Obviously, we’re not in a position to do any big capital projects right now.”

Sunshine Law amendment

Tonight’s Fund Board meeting also includes discussion and possible action on an amendment to the Fund Board’s Mem­orandum of Under­standing with the city. The amendment is intended to address questions about the Fund Board’s com­­pliance with Colorado Open Meetings Law, also known as the Sunshine Law, and sets regulations for public, transparent governance.

The issue arose after the Fund Board held a 45-minute executive, or secret, session at its June 2 meeting to discuss “contract negotiations.” After the session’s conclusion, the Fund Board voted unanimously — and without any public discussion — to approve a motion to seek bids for a new accountant. The Steamboat Pilot & Today contended that the executive session was not properly convened. The Fund Board responded that it doesn’t think it’s subject to Open Meetings Law.

That spurred a June 9 letter to the Fund Board from the Steamboat Pilot & Today’s legal counsel, stating the newspaper’s position that the Fund Board is indeed a public body and therefore required to follow the Open Meetings Law.

The Fund Board unanimously approved a resolution June 29 to “voluntarily” comply with the law.

“We believe we need to be open in public,” Andersen said June 30. “Do we have to? No. Do we want to? Yes.”

Pilot & Today Editor Brent Boyer said the draft language of the Mem­orandum of Under­standing is a blatant attempt by the Fund Board to protect it from ever having to comply with the law.

Boyer said the wording of the draft amendment would prevent the city from being able to challenge the Fund Board’s noncompliance with Open Meetings Law in court. Instead, the Fund Board has drafted language that forces the city to pursue any challenges via private arbitration with non-lawyers.

Furthermore, Boyer said if a private citizen complained about an Open Meetings Law violation, the only recourse would be for the city to press a claim for breach of contract.

“This is bad public policy and an insult to the citizens of Steamboat Springs who have, on four separate occasions, approved the half-cent sales tax for education,” Boyer said.

Should the Fund Board approve the draft amendment, Ander­sen said it would then go to city attorney Tony Lettunich and the Steamboat Springs City Council for their approval.

Also tonight, the Fund Board could appoint a new accountant. Andersen said a Fund Board committee is recommending local CPA Linda Johnson.

Reporter Jack Weinstein contributed to this story.


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