Steamboat Springs Education Fund Delays Awarding Grants for the 2020-2021 School Year
Delay due to uncertainties in sales tax revenues for the upcoming year due to impact from COVID-19
Like all organizations around the world, Steamboat Springs Education Fund (SSEF) is not immune from the impacts of COVID-19. At the May 6, 2020 board meeting the decided to delay awarding grants for the 2020-2021 school year. The Board normally awards grants at the May board meeting each year. SSEF receives funding for grants from a half-cent city sales and use tax for public education. The granting budget is based on a forecast of future sales and use tax revenues, fiscal year July – June. The board originally set a budget forecast during the March 4, 2020 board meeting, but the uncertainties in future tax revenue due to COVID-19 has rendered the original budget forecast obsolete. The Board plans to convene a subcommittee to study various economic indicators to help with their forecasting. Preliminary information from the city indicates a nearly 32% drop in sales tax revenues for March with only two weeks of the COVID-19 shutdown realized.
“The board has always granted money based on a forecast of future sales tax revenues. The original idea was to get the money to the schools as quickly as it was available. However, this puts us in a difficult situation for next year. We are essentially spending money we don’t yet have available so we need to forecast in wildly uncertain times. The bottom line is if we are too conservative we will have money in the bank next year and if we are not conservative enough we may not be able to pay out the grants we promise,” said Sam Jones, SSEF board president.
SSEF received more than $6M in grant requests from school districts in Routt County as well as community groups with school-based programming on the January 2020 deadline. SSEF awarded over $3.8 million dollars ($3,829,834) in grants for public education in Routt County last May for the 2019-2020 grant cycle. Grants awarded to school districts last year included: $3,064,000 to Steamboat Springs School District, $196,000 to Hayden School District, $159,000 to South Routt School District, and $147,574 to Mountain Village Montessori. Nine community non-profits were also granted funding for school-based programming totaling $153,000. The community non-profits programs awarded were: Yampatika Environmental Literacy, Rocky Mountain Youth Corps science school, Partners in Routt County school-based mentoring program, Integrated Community, Yampa Valley Autism Program, Junior Achievement, Opera in the Schools program, Northwest Colorado Health youth resiliency, and Steamboat Springs High School orchestra class. One collaborative grant was awarded for $80,000 funding a grant writer for Steamboat Springs, South Routt and Hayden School districts. The grant writer secured over $2 million in additional funds for the districts for the 2017-2018 school year. The board’s first commitment is to make sure it can pay out the funds granted last year for the current 2019-2020 school year.
The board will provide preliminary forecast estimates to the school districts on May 20, 2020, and will finalize the budget forecast at the June 6, 2020 board meeting.