Streeter: Looking at the Humboldt Unified School District’s bond initiative
As we come off of what proved to be a very competitive primary season, we now turn our attention towards the general election in November. The issue of education will no doubt play a prominent role during this election cycle. Not only have candidates recognized the priority voters are placing on education, but the citizens of the state of Arizona have begun to take an active interest in education policy. At the local level, our immediate community will have the opportunity to decide on a local bond issue for the Humboldt Unified School District.
We are very proud of the many accomplishments of our 5,700 students at each of our ten schools. The recognition that we have received at the local, state, and national levels continue to be points of pride. However, as the community school district and the largest school district in Yavapai County, we are equally proud of the work that we have done to be good stewards of our citizens’ tax dollars.
According to our Fiscal Year 2017 Auditor General Report, we outperformed peer districts and the state average in student achievement, operational efficiencies, and transportation efficiencies. Additionally, the district has performed much more efficiently than peer districts and state averages on administrative spending as we allocate 25 percent less than the state average in this area.
Operating with efficiency has allowed us to use more of our available resources for instructional purposes outpacing peer districts in this area. These efficiencies are especially important for HUSD because our 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 (Arizona Auditor General - Arizona School District Spending-Fiscal Year 2017/March 2018/Report 18-203).
There have been many questions related to the upcoming bond election:
• What is a Bond? Bonds are loans made to the school district. Generally, bonds are used to purchase capital items and/or make capital improvements to existing facilities.
• Why is the Humboldt Unified School District calling for a bond election? The state budget for capital projects has been reduced over the past ten years – these cuts to building renewal and capital funds have resulted in reductions totaling more than $18 million during this time period. Bond funding is a mechanism to begin to restore, repair and refurbish existing facilities.
• What will the Bond do for Humboldt District students? The Governing Board of the Humboldt Unified School District has called this special bond election to improve school safety and security, pupil transportation, technology improvements, and classroom repairs and renovations (including roofs, heating, air conditioning, and furniture).
• What is the amount the District asking for in the upcoming bond election? The District bonding capacity is estimated to be just under $79.5 million, however, being mindful of the impact to our voters and taking into account the needs of our schools, the District is asking for bond approval in the amount of $15 million.
• How much will the bond cost the average homeowner? The average additional tax rate needed to fully fund the HUSD bond is about $1.95 per month based on a home assessed at $100,000. More recent projections (past three years) show these numbers to be about 18 cents per $100 of assessed valuation, or $1.50 per month based on a home assessed at $100,000.
• How do I know the money will be spent as indicated? Arizona law requires the district to clearly list what the bonds will be spent on in the voter information pamphlet. The district is required to comply or be in violation of Arizona State law. School Districts that have bonds approved by the voters must hold public hearings annually to inform the public how the bond proceeds are spent. Additionally, we will take the accountability effort one-step further by establishing a Bond Oversight Committee to review all expenditures at intervals and inform the public of our progress.
• What will happen if the bond is not approved? The School District will have to rely on state funding. That could require the District to use educational operations funds for essential and emergency facility expenses, and could result in personnel reductions, increased class sizes, possible reduction or elimination of extracurricular programs, and reduced supplies at school.
• When will the bond be on the ballot? The Bond will be on the Tuesday, Nov. 6, 2018 ballot. Early voting for this measure will begin Wednesday, Oct. 10, 2018. Last day for voter registration is Tuesday, Oct. 9, 2018.
We continue to appreciate our great relationship with our community and look forward to hosting several Community Informational Sessions regarding the Bond election in the upcoming weeks to assist our community members with any questions that they may have regarding the Bond.