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Teacher raises approved

Christine Metz

— Steamboat Springs voters on Tuesday approved a property tax increase to fund pay increases for public school teachers.

Of the three tax proposals on the ballot in the city, the cost of living adjustment for teachers was the only one voters approved. The measure passed 2,310 to 1,605.

The tax increase will raise $773,000 for salaries and benefits to help attract and retain teachers and staff.

“We were hoping for a sizable margin, we’re pleased that at this point we’re winning with such a good margin,” said school Superintendent Cyndy Simms. “It means we make our salaries more competitive with other school districts and other states and retain excellent teachers and staff. That translates into better education programs for our school.”

Since September, the school district has campaigned for the cost of living adjustment that Simms said will enhance the district with a national teacher shortage looming in the years ahead.

Without organized opposition save for a concerned citizen who questioned the necessity of the teacher raises the COLA campaign was unsure of how the vote would swing Tuesday. Robbin Schoewe, chairperson for the campaign, said she believed COLA was successful because the campaign explained specifically where the tax money would go.

“We sure didn’t know (the outcome) with today’s economic and political situation,” Schoewe said. “We weren’t sure but we went out there and did our best. We ran an education campaign.”

With the passage of COLA, the school district can now collect 22.2 mills in property taxes, up from the 20.7 mills that would be collected without it. For homeowners with houses valued at $300,000, their taxes will be an estimated $609.72, $41.45 higher than what the 20.7 mills would collect.

However even with COLA, property taxes will likely decrease from last year because the district’s total assessed property value increased to $510 million from $382 million.

The increase in property value means that while the average homeowner’s property taxes might have slightly increased, they still have a small piece of the district’s tax burden to share. That scenario means even with the passage of COLA, the school district’s taxes drop from 27.2 mills to 22.2 mills.

Steamboat is one of seven school districts in the state that asked its taxpayers Tuesday to approve a cost of living adjustment to be implemented into its annual budget.

“It was a numbers game when comparing our district to others around the state,” campaign member Jim Gill said. “It made sense to us and made sense to the community. It’s good for all of us.”


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