Aspen School District hopes to renew city sales tax this fall | AspenTimes.com

Aspen School District hopes to renew city sales tax this fall

With the city of Aspen's 0.3 percent sales tax — one of the Aspen School District's primary sources of revenue — set to expire in November, the school district hopes the community will vote to renew the sales tax during the county election in November.

In an effort to get the ball rolling, a group of Aspen School District administrators and members — including Superintendent John Maloy, Chief Financial Officer Kate Fuentes, Aspen Board of Education President Susan Marolt and Aspen Public Education Fund Board President Laura Kornasiewicz — met before Aspen City Council during a work session Tuesday afternoon.

The Aspen Public Education Fund Board is a seven-member board that formed in 2012 when the school district first asked for the city and community's support in implementing the 0.3 percent sales tax, Kornasiewicz said.

At the work session, the school district presented a financial forecast before the council and asked that the city add the question of renewing the sales tax onto the November ballot.

This time around, the school district hopes to extend the duration of the city sales tax, which first passed in 2012, from four years to five.

Although the November election encompasses all of Pitkin County, the school district must go through the city of Aspen because it is a city sales tax.

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Aspen School District's financial deficit is the result of a statewide education fund gap, school officials said.

At Tuesday's work session, school district members informed the council that the state of Colorado's funding gap for all school districts is estimated at $831 million for the 2016-17 academic year.

This figure equates to a funding gap in the Aspen School District of just more than $2 million.

To alleviate the effects of the state's financial shortfall, the school district has identified three local sources of revenue — the mill levy override, which passed in November 2015, the city of Aspen sales tax, and funding from the town of Snowmass.

Approximately 20 percent of students in the Aspen School District reside in Snowmass, according to Maloy.

Without financial support from the local community, the school district would face an approximate $2.5 million deficit for the 2017-18 academic year, according to a memo that Maloy and Fuentes submitted to the Aspen Public Education Fund Board.

Kornasiewicz estimated that the 0.3 percent city sales tax would draw more than $2 million for the school in the upcoming year.

"That small little bump has done some wonderful things for the district," she said.

Overall, the City Council expressed its support of the school district's request.

"I think it's critically important," council member Art Daily said. "I'm on board."

The Aspen School District members will meet before the council again later this summer, as the city must approve the ballot language by the end of August, according to City Attorney Jim True.

erobbie@aspentimes.com

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