Prop EE “only viable hope” for rural education funding

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MEEKER I Revenue from a proposed tax on nicotine products on the November ballot would be dedicated to health and education programs if it passes.

“That’s really the only viable hope right now I see for rural funding in the next few years,” Meeker Superintendent Chris Selle told the Meeker School Board Monday.

Proposition EE would incrementally increase cigarette and tobacco product taxes, and create a new tax on e-cigarettes. Colorado’s tax rate on nicotine products ranks 39th nationwide.

Construction at the high school is on track, with Phase 1 “substantially complete” and Phase 2, which includes the gym and administration areas, getting underway. The board approved change orders for masonry repairs in the auxiliary gym ($140,000) and $869,000 for bus storage. Selle said the construction project has resulted in approximately $6 million invested in the local economy.

Public Health Director Alice Harvey updated the school board about COVID-19 and policies and procedures. “The actions the schools are taking in social distancing and mask wearing are essential. If you take those things away we would see widespread community transmission,” Harvey said. “It’s also the public’s role to protect the school district. If we want to keep our schools open, it’s the public’s responsibility to comply with the recommendations.”

Barone Middle School Principal Jim Hanks said they’ve only had minor issues with mask-wearing, and Meeker Elementary School Principal Kathy Collins said “the kiddos are doing a great job wearing masks, they really are.”

Selle told the board “they won’t really know until after Oct. 1” — the attendance count date for the year — but they’re estimating an $80-90,000 drop in funding due to reduced enrollment.