Summit Schools get a boost with passage of question 3B
KEYSTONE – Cheers erupted from a corner of the Black Bear Grill at the Inn at Keystone as unofficial election results arrived: ballot measure 3B passed with 63 percent of the vote. Local voters approved the property tax override that keeps $2.1 million coming into the school district for operating expenses and to prevent future cuts due to reduced funds from the state.”I guess the first words out of my mouth are, ‘thank you,'” said Jon Kreamelmeyer, president of the Summit School District Board of Education. “It’s so important to fund education, and the community did so.” Though the $2.1 million override has passed, it doesn’t mean an easy road ahead, Kreamelmeyer added. Assistant superintendent Karen Strakbein estimates that once the money is applied to immediate district needs, about $98,000 will remain – pending the Legislature’s approval of the School Finance Act in 2011. “You feel relief and excitement when you win, but the state budget crisis isn’t going away,” said Julie McCluskie, climate and communication coordinator for Summit School District. Voters approved an override in 2007 to fund capital projects to the tune of $5.7 million during its three years. It brought 2010 taxes going to schools to approximately $667 for a $400,000 home. That override expires this year, and the new measure retains about a third of the 2007 amount, or about $36 on a $400,000 home. If the 2007 override were allowed to expire and the new tax hadn’t been approved, Summit County residents would return to paying approximately $551 for the same-value home.Amendment 61 failed Tuesday night, so a provision in the 3B ballot measure that helped circumvent the amendment’s ramifications is now moot. That language would have allowed the school district to continue to borrow $3.5 million from the state each year to float between property tax collections (which Amendment 61 would have eliminated). Opponents of 3B claimed now isn’t the time to ask for any type of tax increase – school districts should operate within their means. They critiqued spending on “extras” such as the International Baccalaureate Program, the dual language program at Dillon Valley Elementary, funding for sport participation and more, opponents said during the election season. But proponents said the measure is more critical now that the school district saw a $1.4 million budget cut this year – with more cuts on the way. To balance the budget, the Summit School District Board of Education opted to freeze teacher salaries and adjusted employee benefits. They also cut programming, athletics, materials, stipends and maintenance contracts.Those weren’t areas district officials felt could withstand further cuts. Strakbein said the mill levy helps maintain the current status quo. If nothing else, it’s a way for the district to be proactive in the face of looming budget cuts. “We just don’t want to go through what we went through last year,” Strakbein said. The Citizens for Strong Summit Schools was a voluntary effort of about 19 core members and many more volunteers that campaigned for the measure starting in May. They raised more than $30,000, which went toward mailing information to about 12,000 voters, sending personal postcards to about 5,000 voters and radio and newspaper advertisements. The campaign also included door-to-door canvassing, phone calls, letters to the editor, e-mail blasts through the Summit Education Foundation and more than 40 presentations to community groups. Campaigners said they were nervous as election day approached that though they sensed support for the measure, not enough supporters would turn out at the polls. With a half a year spent earning support for education funding, Summit School District Board of Education member Margaret Carlson said, “I look forward to talking about bettering education, not funding education.” SDN reporter Janice Kurbjun can be contacted at (970) 668-4630 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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