Some communities are tapping — or looking into — marijuana funds for schools | CraigDailyPress.com

Some communities are tapping — or looking into — marijuana funds for schools

Moffat County voted decisively against a measure to allow marijuana operations

Michael Neary







— As people concerned about the Moffat County School District discuss a difficult budget for the coming school year, a suggestion that's emerged from community members involves using tax dollars generated from marijuana. It's a source of funding that for other school districts has carried the potential for thousands of school-district dollars.

It's also likely to land only a fraction of what other external means of funding, such as a mill levy override, would generate, according information from school district officials in and outside of Moffat County.

In Steamboat Springs, the school district collects a half-percent sales tax on all tangible goods sold. Last year the amount it collected from marijuana sales was about $45,500.

"The half-cent school tax is not a new tax," said Sue Davies, the city's budget and tax supervisor. "It was in existence prior to the legal sale of recreational and medical marijuana in our city."

In 2015, the Steamboat Springs’ marijuana sales totaled about $9.1 million.

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In Garfield County School District 16, some local tax money from marijuana sales may be channeled toward schools in the future.

Last June, Parachute town trustees voted to repeal the prohibition on recreational marijuana facilities and also approved a measure to allow those facilities, said City Manager Stuart McArthur.

He said recreational dispensaries are allowed, but medical dispensaries are not.

The trustees included a provision that allows the school district to use up to 1 percent of the town's marijuana sales tax, McArthur said.

Garfield County School District 16 Superintendent Ken Haptonstall said the district's board of trustees must approve the use of marijuana funds.

"They're not sure they want money going from dispensaries to schools and students," Haptonstall said.

If the funding does end up going to schools, Haptonstall said he doesn't anticipate a large sum, at least compared to the overall district budget.

"I would not say it's a huge amount of money," he said. "If we got $20,000 I'd be surprised."

Haptonstall said the district draws a far more significant sum from mill levy override funding.

"We have maxed out our mill levy, which provides about $1.9 million in funding for the district," he said. "Our mill levy essentially back-fills the negative factor reduction from state support."

Meanwhile, a petition in Parachute has been submitted for the November election to re-institute the marijuana prohibition, McArthur said. The vote cannot be held sooner because the state constitution mandates that a petition for a prohibition be held in general elections during even-numbered years, McArthur said.

Here in Moffat County, voters rejected a measure to "allow the operation of marijuana cultivation facilities" in 2014 by a vote of 2,860 against and 2,011 in favor.

There has been no recent discussion of the matter at the county level, said Lila Herod, Moffat County Clerk & Recorder.

Craig City Manager Jim Ferree said the city council has established several moratoriums against the sale and production of marijuana in the last several years. The council has also passed zoning regulations dealing with medical marijuana establishments.

A way to tap state excise tax of marijuana is through the state's Building Excellent Schools Today, or BEST, program. The program is administered by the Colorado Department of Education Division of Public School Construction Assistance, and school districts can apply for funding — following specific guidelines — for capital construction projects. A portion of the program's funding comes from state marijuana excise tax.

Tinneal Gerber, the Moffat County School District's executive director of finance and operations, said the district has been granted funds from the BEST program in the past, but she said — after discussion with program officials — that current needs of the district didn't match BEST program requirements this year.

Contact Michael Neary at 970-875-1794 or mneary@CraigDailyPress.com or follow him on Twitter @CDP_Education.