Steamboat Springs Education Fund (SSEF) Board approved a revised grant budget at the June 3, 2020 board meeting, awarding $2.8 million ($2,800,000) in grants for public education in Routt County for the 2020-2021 grant cycle. This year’s grant budget was reduced by $1 million, a decrease of more than 25% from the previous year due to COVID-19 and its impact on sales tax revenues, but provides schools more flexibility in spending.
SSEF received more than $6 million in grant requests from school districts in Routt County as well as community groups with school-based programming on the January 2020 deadline. The Board voted to delay awarding grants at the May 2020 board meeting due to uncertainties in future tax revenue and the impacts of COVID-19 on the local economy. SSEF receives funding for grants from a city half-cent city sales and use tax for public education. The granting budget is based on a forecast of future city sales and use tax revenues.
After the May meeting, the Board convened a subcommittee to study various economic indicators to help with forecasting a new budget. “The goal of our subcommittee was to analyze as many economic indicators and data points as possible before we decided on the final budget. We needed another month of data to help with this decision but still, the accuracy of any forecast during these unprecedented times is uncertain,” said Sam Jones, board president.
Since the inception of the fund, the majority of the grants supported teachers, technology, and programs. The board voted to give the school districts more flexibility on how they spend the grants while still providing accountability reports at the end of the school year. The flexibility allows the districts to determine the best way to spend the money in this changing environment. “We appreciate the collaborative approach of the Education Fund Board during the budget and forecasting process. It is clear we have a common goal to do what is best for our students. The board worked in partnership with Routt County school districts and the flexibility provided is critical as we navigate budget cuts from the state,” said Dr. Brad Meeks, Steamboat Springs superintendent.
Grants awarded to school districts include $2,244,301 to Steamboat Springs School District, $140,269 to Hayden School District, $112,215 to South Routt School District, and $112,215 to Mountain Village Montessori. School district administration recommended prioritizing funding for three school-based community programs totaling $78,000, a reduction from the nine programs funded last grant cycle. The community non-profit program grants awarded were $40,000 to Partners in Routt County school-based mentoring program, $13,000 to Integrated Community, and $25,000 to Northwest Colorado Health youth resiliency. Uncertainties surrounding how class instruction will be conducted next fall influenced the decision. Funding was focused to reduce inequity and equip at-risk students to meet high standards of success. One collaborative grant was awarded for $86,000, funding a grant writer for Steamboat Springs, South Routt and Hayden School districts. The grant writer typically secures over $2 million per year in additional funds for the districts.