Carroll: Don’t be an Aspen, Snowmass
There are generally three types of friends (four if you count Donald Trump’s African-American). The first is one who doesn’t think twice about splitting the check evenly when dining out in a restaurant with a group, especially since however much it comes out to won’t make a dent in their bank account.
Then there’s also that friend who inspects the bill, line by line, to determine who, exactly, ordered the $15 Valrhona chocolate sphere or the $36 glass of Caymus Cabernet so some aren’t stuck paying for the extravagances of others.
The third kind of friend is similar to the first except they’re conscious of the fact that sometimes one pal eats or drinks more than another; they just figure since they’re buddies who enjoy dining out together regularly, it’ll all even out in the end. That’s why they’re not whipping out a calculator to see who should contribute more to the tip for eating the $38 sea bass when they only ate the $26 veal scaloppini.
The Aspen School District historically acts like a combination of all of the above. While the state underwrites a set amount for each child in public school, the Aspen School District generously picks up the remaining per-student deficit, which is not an insignificant sum. This includes its out-of-district kids whose families pay taxes that advance other districts. Quite commendably, though, at least on that point, the Aspen School District seems to recognize that geographic, economic and cultural diversity brings more value to the table than quibbling over the bill.
On the other hand, three years ago, when Colorado attempted to pass Amendment 66, which had the potential to generate $950 million in revenue at a time when fewer state dollars were being provided to public schools, and more teachers and programs were being eliminated as a result of the recession, Aspen’s Board of Education officially took a neutral stance on Amendment 66 since its schools didn’t stand to benefit enough from it. (In all fairness, perhaps Aspen’s Board of Education had never heard of Elie Wiesel, who famously spoke about the moral imperative of taking sides since neutrality always helps the oppressor and never the victim.)
And while it was true that Amendment 66 would not have swept in and fixed everything that ails the district’s budget, it still would have greatly aided other, less well-funded schools in the valley. As Aspen Skiing Co. CEO Mike Kaplan articulated in a 2013 Aspen Times guest opinion column: “The Aspen School District is enjoying great success under current funding — and thanks to phenomenal support from our community. It is, in fact, a great school system. Now, Amendment 66 will allow us to begin to offer all children in Colorado the quality of education that is only available today in select districts such as Cherry Creek and Aspen. Amendment 66 is a chance to think bigger — beyond just our children to include our neighbors’ children as well. … Our workforce is now split 50 percent upvalley and 50 percent downvalley, so quality of education throughout the entire community matters. And second, it’s just the right thing to do.”
Snowmass Village and the city of Aspen have been chums that have split the education bill more or less proportionately for ages. Yet with the district’s already-significant funding deficit teetering on the edge of a cliff as Aspen’s mill levy is set to expire at the end of 2016, the district needs Snowmass to open its wallet wider than ever to cover more of the check.
On Nov. 8, voters in Snowmass will have the opportunity to bolster Aspen’s schools when they’re asked to approve an additional $500,000 annually via a property tax. It isn’t as if Aspen’s asking Snowmass to shell out for an appetizer it didn’t order; it just needs everyone who can swing it to send a message that smaller class sizes with a diverse student body, Experiential Education and a top-notch staff remain a priority.
One mill in Snowmass Village, which is part of the Aspen School District, comes out to an extra $318.40 in property taxes for a $4 million house. At the risk of counting other people’s money, if you have a $4 million home, another $318.40 each year — or the equivalent of 21 pizzas from Taster’s (with no toppings) or 11 truffle burgers from the Viceroy’s Eight K restaurant (including fingerling fries) — should be doable.
Most everyone gets it wrong sometimes, as Aspen’s school board arguably did in 2013 when it all but discouraged local voters from supporting Amendment 66. Fortunately, though, at least Snowmass Village residents have an opportunity to do the right thing by the Aspen School District — and its students — in November.
More at http://www.meredithcarroll.com.
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With much sorrow I heard of the passing of a good friend Bruce Berger. He was a man for all seasons, a pianist, prolific author, environmentalist, and lover of Aspen.