Fund Board meeting tonight

Board will present community with 'State of the Fund'

A day after President Bush presented the nation with his State of the Union address, the Steamboat Springs Education Fund Board will present the community with a version of its own.

The Fund Board and its commissions will convene in Olympian Hall tonight for the group's first ever "State of the Fund" presentation, as Fund Board President Jim Gill dubbed the gathering. The meeting is geared toward community members who may not be directly involved in the Fund Board process other than their monetary contributions as taxpayers.

"Over the last few years, a lot of things have changed," Gill said. "We have a new superintendent, new School Board members, new Fund Board members and new commission members. We have a lot of new, key members."

Which isn't a bad thing, he added.

"It's good we're getting new people involved in the process, but we probably haven't given them enough background of where we've been in the past and where we are today," Gill said.

A look at the past, present and future of the Fund Board -- tonight's goal -- involves much more than engaging the group's current members, Gill said.

"This is a community effort," he said. "We're anxious to tell people what we're doing. The taxpayers have a right to know what we're doing. I hope we have a good turnout."

Gill will begin the presentation by summarizing the history of the Fund Board and its processes. Fund Board and commission members Jerry Kozatch, Norm Weaver and Tom Ptach will discuss major projects funded from each commission, school district Finance Director Dale Mellor briefly will discuss the changing financial situation of the district, and Superintendent Donna Howell will speak about the future of the district and the administrative team's funding recommendations to the Fund Board.

In all, the presentations shouldn't last more than an hour, Gill said. A question and answer session will follow. The meeting will not provide an opportunity for community members to bring forward funding requests, though the process for which those requests should be made will be addressed.

Taxpayers approved on three separate occasions since 1993 a half-cent sales tax to provide revenue for the Education Fund. The Fund Board is the group of community members responsible for administering the fund. Annual revenue from the tax has grown from less than $1.2 million in 1994, its first year, to a projected $1.9 million this year.

Though all Fund Board and Fund Board commission meetings are open to the public, community participation is rare, which is unfortunate, Gill said.

"Just because you don't have a kid in the schools doesn't mean you don't have good ideas," he said.

Three commissions, comprised of community members, bring annual funding requests to the 13-member Fund Board, which approves requests based upon their strengths, including whether they satisfy the original intent of the Education Fund and how they mesh with the direction and needs of the Steamboat Springs School District.

The Fund Board has spent about $15 million in the past decade toward things like additional teachers to lower class sizes, capital projects, new computers and network upgrades.

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