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Thu, Oct. 17

PUSD’s first $7.5M bond sale begins process of upgrades

PRESCOTT – The first round of a $15 million taxpayer-authorized bond sale in May has given the Prescott Unified School District $7.5 million to do major upgrades to its facilities.

The top priority list includes new computers, additional buses for the district fleet, new carpeting, small roofing projects, a new telephone system and security cameras.

Chief Financial Officer Kevin Dickerson highlighted for the Governing Board on Tuesday night, Oct. 4, the projects slated to be paid for with this first round of money. He then announced the good news that the district is getting a $1.33 million bonus it can now spend on second-tier priority projects because the high school’s roof will be financed through the state School Facilities Board, rather than taxpayers.

And he assured the board that the second-tier projects are not add-ons, but rather are projects district leaders identified to taxpayers a year ago when the bond was approved as essential needs.

Board members were clear that they want to spend only as much as is absolutely necessary, and Superintendent Joe Howard said his administration will spend only what is necessary, seeking savings anywhere they can to be certain to stretch the dollars as far as possible.

The $15 million bond was approved to cover a 14-year span. Dickerson said he would not anticipate selling any additional bonds for another three years.

The first priority list includes 17 different projects, some of them already in the works with projected costs and some slated to be started next summer, in particular carpeting for the high school, Granite Mountain School, Taylor Hicks Elementary and Lincoln Elementary. Carpeting for Abia Judd Elementary and Mile High has been approved and is likely to be scheduled over the fall break. Costs for both of those projects are about $100,000 less than initially anticipated.

On Tuesday night, the board agreed to buying a new district-wide phone system that will be managed in-house rather than by an outside vendor, and the cost of that system is about $195,000 for equipment. That is about $16,000 more than projected.

The district is also buying about 100 computers, including desktops, laptops and chrome books. The total cost for those items is about $60,000.

Part of the district’s appeal to taxpayers was related to a scheduled replacement of the bus fleet. With this first round of bond money, the district is purchasing eight propane-fuel buses with cameras on board at a cost of $1.12 million, exactly as projected, and two diesel buses at a projected cost of $351,000.

Along with the roof replacement at the high school, the district has also contracted for $2.45 million in energy savings equipment. Those costs are just $63,000 higher than initially projected.

With the roof savings, Dickerson said the recommendations from the six-member bond/override oversight committee include buying about $1.38 million of upgrades that include security cameras, food service equipment, exterior painting of some of the schools, additional computers, roof repairs at both Mile High Middle School and Granite Mountain School. In addition to those, Dickerson and Howard said both the high school and Granite Mountain have suffered lightning strikes in the past and so it might make sense to invest in lightning rods for those schools to protect the computer servers. No cost quotes have yet been sought for those items.

In his presentation, Dickerson said the district’s capital plan is a “living and breathing” document. The board will always have a final say on how bonds will be sold and for what purpose. He said he intends to be completely transparent to the taxpayers who entrusted the district with money to benefit students.

“We will spend the money the way we said we will spend the money,” Dickerson concluded.

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