Snowmass council considers more school funding

Jill Beathard
The Aspen Times

The Snowmass Village Town Council will consider ways of contributing more financially to the Aspen School District at a work session today.

The schools initially came to Snowmass asking for a funding increase last year when faced with a budget shortfall projected to deplete their fund balance by 2019. With the passage of measure 3A last fall, the district’s mill-levy override has been increased, generating an additional $1 million in revenue.

While 3A addresses the problem in the short term, in the future, the Aspen School District projects it will experience a deficit of $1.2 million in the 2017-18 school year, which will grow and deplete the district’s fund balance by 2021. The district is therefore still seeking additional funding from the town of Snowmass Village, which it initially suggested could institute a 0.3 percent sales tax identical to the one currently collected in the city of Aspen.

That suggestion didn’t sit well with elected officials last year, given the already high sales tax collected in the village. At 10.4 percent, it is one of the highest in the state.

But the council members agreed they want to support the schools, and town staff members have spent the past several months working with the district on other options. One that has risen to the surface is repurposing the existing mill levy collected to pay off the debt from the 2010 purchase of the Droste property, the final piece acquired to create Sky Mountain Park out of public land near the airport.

At 1.021 mills, that tax is projected to collect approximately $500,000, according to a memo from Travis Elliott, assistant to the town manager. The sales tax increase the school district proposed is expected to collect $504,000 annually.

The Droste mill is set to expire in 2017. Snowmass Village voters would have to approve its renewal.

“It seems a timely opportunity, and it also raises roughly the same amount as the district is requesting,” Elliott said.

The school district sales tax currently being collected in Aspen is set to expire this year, so district officials are looking for an answer from Snowmass before asking Aspen voters to renew that tax.

While it may appear that Snowmass isn’t doing its part, Elliott pointed out that it depends on how you look at it. In preparation for today’s work session, town staff members pulled numbers showing the village is actually providing more property tax revenue per student than Aspen. But per resident, Aspen brings in more.

“It’s not exactly apples to apples,” Elliott said.


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