By Bill Tiedje
Despite voting at their Sept. 12 work session to support the passage of Amendment 66, the state school finance act, the Ridgway School Board had yet to hear from state representatives as to the actual change in revenue Ridgway schools would experience if the ballot measure passes this fall.
On Sept. 12, Superintendent Cheryl Gomez stated in an e-mail to community members as well as to the school board that Amendment 66 would result in an increase of roughly $700,000 for the district; however, Gomez retracted that number in an e-mail the following day, saying, "The outcome for our district is not as I described."
Although Gomez also stated, "Final findings and best known outcomes will be shared in a detailed report to the Board of Education and presented during the next scheduled board meeting" in her Sept. 13 e-mail, the correct numbers were not presented during the regular school board meeting on Sept. 26.
After being questioned by school board member Bart Skalla, Gomez stated she was still awaiting the actual numbers from Colorado Public Finance Principal Consultant Mary Lynn Christel.
Gomez indicated she might be able to present the school board with the correct numbers before the board's work session, yet to be scheduled, during the second week of October.
Christel was reached by phone and stated that Ridgway School District revenues would increase by $63,663 as shown in a table on the Colorado General Assembly website. This story can be viewed online at www.ouraynews.com, where readers will find a link to a PDF version of this table. The table shows per pupil funding will increase by $3 for Ridgway School District under the new legislation.
Christel said she did not have information as to what the amount of increase in income taxes would be for Ridgway taxpayers under the new legislation.
Skalla said that after reading the proposed legislation, his own calculations showed a decrease in revenue for the district and indicated he was also aware of flyers that had been mailed to Ridgway voters in support of the legislation which cited a $63,000 increase in revenue for the school district.
Even with a $63,000 increase, Skalla argued that the increase in tax burden on taxpayers in Ridgway would be far greater than the amount received by the Ridgway School District.
During the Sept. 26 meeting, Board Member Julie Wesseling said she felt the bill was still the best opportunity to support education and believed it would result in a positive influx of money into the district.
During the public comment portion of the Sept. 26 meeting, former school board member Connie Stapleton questioned why Skalla had been allowed to recuse himself from voting during a previous meeting without a board vote to approve such action.
Stapleton cited a state statute which said a school board member must give a reason for not voting, and then the board must vote to approve this request for a board member to recuse himself from voting.
The Colorado Revised Statute, 22-32-108 (2013) Meetings of the board of education - legislative intent states, "All voting at any meeting shall be by roll call. The names of the members shall be called alphabetically, and each member present shall orally vote "Aye" or "No" upon each question unless excused from voting by the board for good cause. Election of the president and vice-president may be by secret ballot."
Skalla responded that by not voicing opposition to his not voting, the board had approved his recusal from voting on several items through "implied consent."
School board members indicated their seating was arranged in alphabetical order to expedite the voting process, making a "roll call" vote unnecessary.
Skalla also said he had requested to see Principal Jim Bob Hobbs' "firing folder" and said Gomez had acted illegally by withholding this document from him. Gomez said such a document did not exist; however, a personnel file was available, adding that such matters should not be discussed in public as it was a personnel issue.
Other items of business discussed at the Sept. 26 school board meeting included an update on "paperless" efforts from Gomez, including "paperless" registration of students, updates from Principals Trish Greenwood and Jim Bob Hobbs about recent state Transitional Colorado Assessment Program testing and a demonstration by Guinean drummer Fara Tolno and his drumming class.
Hobbs also indicated a new weighted class ranking system would go into effect the first week of October, which would affect Ridgway High School graduates' transcripts from 2005 and later.
The school board's next regularly scheduled meeting is Wednesday, Oct. 23.
CDE Table: Page 3
CDE Table: Page 4