After spirited discussion, the school board decided to wait to make a decision on increasing taxes to pay for recreational facilities and activities.
The Teton County School District No. 1 Board of Trustees oversees the taxation power of the Teton County Recreation District. At the school board’s monthly meeting Wednesday, it was considering a proposal to raise the Rec District’s tax to 1 mill, the maximum allowed.
The rec district approved the increase at its most recent meeting, though it needs the school board’s go-ahead. Taxing property owners at the highest allowed level was meant to offset some of the funding cuts the Wyoming Legislature was considering.
The school district “was looking for ways to fund some of those things that are not in the funding model,” school board Chairman Keith Gingery told the Jackson Hole Daily. Its original nearly $2.2 million ask included items like school resource officers, facilities maintenance and a variety of recreational activities.
Under state law, recreation district funds are designated to cover recreation activities, though the definition of that is broad. In the past, community partners like the Teton Literacy Center and Jackson Hole Public Art have won grants from the district, though their activities might not fit a traditional view of recreation that focuses on sports or outdoor pursuits.
At least one school board member, who also sits on the rec district board, voiced concern about the looseness by which the school district had approached this year’s ask of the rec district.
“A lot of the things the school district added in its request from the rec District are not really rec District things,” Trustee Kate Mead said. “Like our [school resource officer], that is not a rec district activity.”
With the Legislature punting some of the toughest school funding decisions and cuts for the time being, the school district may not have as much of an immediate crunch. The school district brought back a revised ask of the rec district that doesn’t include some of those things.
The school district included two slates of requests, one for if the rec district approves a 0.85 mill levy or a 0.8 mill levy. Included in both is the replacement of the three synthetic turf athletic fields, which have surpassed the industry standard for age and have tested at borderline unsafe levels in recent years.
Replacing the turf appears to be the school board’s top priority in its request, and board members seemed to prioritize it over some of the other requests. The rec district has been putting aside some money for the project and would need to grant $600,000 more this year to cover the costs, which look to be between $1.2 million and $1.3 million.
“I have great concern about pushing the fields because I think if you try and do it next year, it’s going to cost us even more money,” Trustee Janine Bay Teske said, though she cautioned that the district should not spend cash reserves on the project.
The board couldn’t come to a consensus on the mill levy and continued the discussion to its May 12 meeting.
“I have great concern about pushing the fields because
I think if you try and do it
next year, it’s going to cost
us even more money.” – Janine Bay Teske, School Trustee