Winter Park council pledges $75,000 for schools
Grand County, CO Colorado
Winter Park Town Council approved, Tuesday, Feb. 15, budgeting $75,000 to “buy a year,” for Fraser Elementary School. The money would be given as a charitable contribution, most likely to the East Grand Education Foundation, a donor-advised fund of the Grand Foundation.
The figure will be calculated into the 2012 budget cycle and will only be spent if the school district fails to secure a long-term funding mechanism by December 2011 to keep the schools open.
The town’s attorney, John Hayes, said that while towns cannot directly fund school districts, municipalities are able to donate funds to charitable organizations, such as the education foundation. Hayes encouraged the town to add contingencies to the funding. That specific language has yet to be determined, but council wants some assurance that the money will be spent to keep Fraser and Grand Lake elementary schools open.
The funding level was approved by a 6-1 vote with council member Barbara Atwater opposed because she was uncomfortable with the town funding another taxing district, even if the money is being “laundered” through a non-profit, as council member Jimmy Lahrman explained it.
Lahrman said the situation scares him too: “There is such a good chance that we could be here again in six to eight months,” he said.
Council member Mike Periolat justified the expenditure as part of the town’s responsibility to protect its businesses.
At his dinner table, Periolat said, the discussion is about educating children.
“When I sit in this seat, it’s more about economics and running a viable community.”
For him, saving the neighborhood schools is a matter of “protecting jobs and … our vitality,” he said.
Council member Vince Turner proposed the $75,000 figure based on bridging the difference between what he estimates other towns, organizations and businesses can commit and what the school district has said it will need to keep the schools open for the entirety of the upcoming school year.
The exact amount, he added, can be amended if that becomes necessary later.
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