Steamboat voters renew education sales tax by huge margin

Steamboat Springs Middle School students work on computers. (File photo)

Editor’s note: This story has been updated to reflect the final vote count.

STEAMBOAT SPRINGS — Steamboat voters overwhelmingly approved Referendum 2B with more than 85 percent of the vote, renewing the half-cent education sales tax for 10 more years.

The issue passed 6,000 to 1,008 votes.

“It’s pretty rare to have such a strong ‘yes’ vote,” said Sam Jones, president of the Steamboat Springs Education Fund board. “It’s a great testament to Steamboat and Routt County schools and our willingness to invest in ourselves.”

The education fund board was established in 1993 to administer the funds, when the tax generated about $200,000 annually. Today, the tax generates about $4 million a year, which the 22-member volunteer board awards to Routt County schools and nonprofits in the form of grants.

“We never fathomed it would be such a big part of the budget,” Jones said.

Today, funding generated by the half-cent sales tax accounts for as much as 10 to 12 percent of the Steamboat Springs School District’s budget, with the largest percentage used to fund 19 full-time teaching positions.

Amounting to 5 cents on every $10 purchase, the tax has generated a total of more than $61 million for schools over its 25-year history.

In 2008, the last time the tax was up for renewal, 75 percent of voters approved its renewal. In a separate referendum, 70 percent of voters approved sharing the funding outside Steamboat, with South Routt and Hayden school districts, as well as the Mountain Village Montessori School.

In addition to teacher salaries and maintaining small class sizes, the tax has provided for an increase in access to technology, funding for field trips and mental health care services for students. It has also been used to support music, arts, science, language and special needs programming through local nonprofits.

It has also helped to offset nearly a decade of cuts in state funding.

“It’s more important for us to stay in control of our own revenue, rather then hand it over to the state,” Jones said.

To reach Kari Dequine Harden, call 970-871-4205, email or follow her on Twitter @KariHarden.

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