Eagle County Board of Education Government Tracker
Eagle, CO Colorado
The issue: ECO Transit’s youth ridership program
Who they talked to: Eagle County Commissioners Peter Runyon and John Stavney
What they talked about: Eagle County Transit offers free bus rides to children under 18 years old, and since the rides went from being $1 to free, the rider numbers have gone way up, Runyon said. There were 75,000 riders the first year it was free, and this past year there were 127,000 riders.
“That’s why it’s affecting the bottom line,” Runyon said.
The county commissioners said they wanted to be in touch with the school board about potentially cutting the free program because it could affect the school district. School officials said that students riding school buses are also up, meaning the increased county riders doesn’t mean a decrease in school bus riders. The two agencies agreed to talk with their staffs more about detailed statistics of young riders so they could meet again and figure out what to do about the cuts.
Superintendent Sandra Smyser said that while the recession might mean some cuts are necessary now, it doesn’t mean the agencies can’t plan for future partnerships with the transit system.
“This is all about tough times,” Runyon said.
The issue: Payment in Lieu of Taxes (federal payments to local governments that help offset losses in property taxes due to nontaxable federal lands within their boundaries)
Who they talked to: Phil Onofrio, Eagle County School District chief financial officer; Eagle County Commissioners Peter Runyon and John Stavney
What they talked about: Representatives from the school district and the county meet every year to allocate the Payment in Lieu of Taxes funds ” 25 percent goes to roads and bridges and 25 percent goes to the school, but the remaining 50 percent is negotiable. If the two agencies can’t agree on how to spend the rest, the funds remain unspent until they can agree.
The funds allocated to schools are reimbursed by future Payment in Lieu of Taxes money, but funds to bridges and roads are not.
Onofrio recommended the two agencies allocate 95 percent of this year’s Payment in Lieu of Taxes money to the school district so that about $500,000 in additional federal funds would be available to the county. The county would keep the increased Payment in Lieu of Taxes payment in 18 months, and the proposal means the district and the county would each have $250,000 in extra revenue over 18 months, Onofrio said.
The issue: Eagle County Schools Superintendent Sandra Smyser wrote a letter to school district staff members about the Colorado Legislature’s school finance bill.
Main points from her letter:
– The bill provides a 4.9 percent increase per pupil to school funding for 2009-10, which meets Amendment 23’s requirement that the state must increase school funding by inflation plus 1 percent every year.
– Schools must hold 1.9 percent of the increase, or about $800,000, until Jan. 29, 2010 ” money that would likely have to be returned, leaving the school district with a 3 percent funding increase.
– Of the 3 percent increase, the district must increase its contribution to the Public Employees’ Retirement Association by 1 percent, leaving the district with about 2 percent more money than in 2008-09.
– An “unavoidable” increase in spending for health benefits must come from the extra 2 percent.
– While the school district is budgeting for 168 less students next year, meaning less funding, there are hopes that enrollment won’t be as low as it’s budgeting. The district would receive an additional $7,500 for each new enrolled student next year, but more students mean more staff and more expenses, Smyser wrote.
– Inaccurate enrollment predictions could have real financial consequences for the district, she wrote.
“We head into the summer with much to consider in terms of budgeting for next year,” Smyser wrote.
A survey showed a good bit of support for local government action to bolster workforce housing in town. For now though, that support stops at supporting a new tax for funding.