Originally Published: October 9, 2018 7:32 p.m.
The Humboldt Unified School District includes 5,700 enrolled students, covers 318 sq. miles, provides transportation for 3,000 students, and supports 700 employees, 290 of which are teachers.
The district has been recognized by Newsweek and U.S. News and World Report as being one of the top high schools in the nation. Its schools also provide the community with shelter for people and animals during emergency evacuations caused by fires or flooding.
Following a week off for fall break, the Humboldt Unified School District will provide information about the upcoming bond request for $15 million at one more public meeting: 5:30 p.m. Thursday, Oct. 18, at Glassford Hill Middle School. The presentation lasts a half hour with time afterward to answer questions.
HUSD Superintendent Dan Streeter has presented an overview of the need for the bond on four occasions to about 65 community members. He explained how a previous bond approved in 2006 will be exhausted in 2018. Those funds paid for constructions and renovation of existing schools, with repairs and improvements made to buildings and playgrounds.
State legislators began reducing building renewal and capital funding to school districts over the past 10 years resulting in an $18.9 million loss of capital funding for the district.
WHERE WILL THE MONEY GO?
Humboldt will use the $15 million in proposed bond money in four areas of need: improvements to school safety and security; student transportation; technology improvements; and classroom repairs and renovations, which include roofs, heating, air conditioning and furniture.
By law, the district can spend bond money on only these items. It will establish a Bond Oversight Committee to review all expenditures and keep the public informed on projects and progress.
WHAT IS THE COST TO TAXPAYERS?
If approved by voters, taxpayers will pay 24 cents per $100 of assessed valuation, which comes to about $1.95 per month for a home assessed at $100,000, or $2.69 per month for an average house assessed at $137,540.
These figures are based on property assessments over the past 10 years when values dropped during the economic downturn.
More recent projections from the past three years, however, show these assessment numbers at 18 cents per $100 of assessed valuation or $1.50 per month, or $2.07 per month for average homes valued at $137,540.
ARE MORE BUDGET CUTS AN OPTION?
“We’ve been very frugal,” Streeter said referring to the district’s budget expenditures over the past 10 years.
The most recent audit from the Arizona Auditor General dated March 2018 indicates HUSD’s spending is in the very low or low categories in three out of four expenditure areas.
Administration costs fall into the Very Low range with only $631 per pupil as compared to $837 at peer schools and $844 state average. The district counts 84 students per administrative position, as compared to 69 at peer schools and 67 state average.
Transportation and Plant Operations categories fell into the low range, and Food Service, at $3.05 per meal, was comparable to peer schools ($3.05) and state average ($2.88).
“We put more money into instruction than peer schools,” Streeter said.
The Auditor General’s report stated that HUSD “outperformed peer districts and state average in student achievement, operational efficiencies and transportation efficiencies … These efficiencies are especially important for the Humboldt USD because per pupil revenues are $658 below peer district averages and one of the lowest in the state coming in at $1,129 less than the state average.”
BREAKDOWN OF BOND CATEGORIES
Safety and Security: $4.5 million. This will pay for front office remodels, fire alarm systems and security cameras.
Transportation: $1.5 million. This pays for 10 buses.
Technology upgrades: $6.6 million. This provides for student devices, classroom/instructional improvements, and infrastructure needs.
Classroom and building repairs and improvements: $2.4 million. This will pay for replacement of HVAC systems that are 15 years or more old, roof repairs, and furniture more than 20 years old.
Jessica Bennett, principal of Bradshaw Mountain Middle School, asked how she can get parents and the community more involved and passionate about the bond.
“Give people the facts,” Streeter said.
For more information on the bond, visit the district’s website at www.humboldtunified.com.
The bond will appear on the Nov. 6 General Election ballot. Early voting begins Oct. 10.