Kremmling – West Grand school officials disappointed in wake of ballot meaure rejection
November 4, 2009
West Grand voters overwhelmingly rejected a ballot measure that would have increased taxes to level-fund the school district.
The measure was overturned 498 to 272.
District administrators expressed disappointment Wednesday morning.
“The school district has always had a good relationship with the community,” said Superintendent Kevin Chalfant, noting that church groups, adult volleyball and basketball teams and ballet classes are among those that have used the school’s buildings regularly.
“What’s disappointing is that all these community members that use our facility didn’t feel they could afford an extra $20 per year for that stewardship.”
Chalfant said administrators would look to make initial cuts in places that won’t effect the quality of education, places such as building usage and mileage for field trips.
Chalfant said the school board won’t be talking about cutting staff, yet.
“Not this year,” he said, “but we are going to have to talk about it next year.”
Maintaining the highest quality of education possible for the students will remain the district’s priority, Chalfant said.
All local funding
The budget process, which will begin in earnest in January, will be complicated by the fact that West Grand School District is in a “categorical buyout” for the next two years. That means 100 percent of its funding will come from local sources. The state’s own financial crisis will add further strain to the budget, Chalfant said.
“With our economy the way that it is, people see the word tax and just equate it with no,” he said. “They don’t consider whether it is a reasonable request, how minimal the increase is or whether we are good stewards of the community.”
Despite the disappointment, school board President Larry Banman said the issue of a tax override isn’t dead yet.
While this defeat, “leaves us looking at some belt-tightening measures,” Banman said, the existing overrides don’t sunset until 2011, giving the school board one more year to put the question out to voters, if it so chooses.
Banman said he also recognizes the role the economy played in the voter’s decision this year.
“People are scraping by right now and the ballot initiative said, ‘Would you approve a tax increase?'”
Banman said he plans to spend the coming year discussing the issue with the community and attempting to discover what people want and expect from the school district.
“Voters in this county are pretty well educated,” he said. “They want to know specific information about what this override will pay for and what stands to be cut if it doesn’t pass.”
“We will probably refine what we ask for,” Banman said. “We might be asking for less.”
New board members
West Grand citizens also voted into office five school board members, three new candidates and two who have already served some time as appointed members.
Candidates with the most votes were Susan Ritschard, 605; Brendan Gale, 585; Timothy Thompson, 529; Christina Whitmer, 485; and Brett Davidson, 401.
Davidson will be serving a two-year term while the rest will serve four-year terms.
Two candidates failed to receive enough votes to land one of the five seats. They were Audrey Gasvoda, 398 votes, and David Skinner, 284.
The new members will be sworn in later this month after the vote tally is finalized.
“We have three board members who have served between eight and 10 years, and we would like to thank them for their service,” Chalfant said.
“I’m looking forward to working with them,” Banman said. “This group of candidates seemed like they had the community and education foremost in their thoughts.”
– Reid Armstrong can be reached at 970-887-3334 ext. 19610 or firstname.lastname@example.org.