Community Advisory Committee Q&A
The following questions were posed by members of the Community Advisory Committee to PUSD Administration. The following are the answers.
1. What are options around contracting services such as food service, transportation, facilities/custodial, information technology (I.T.)?
- We are currently contracting our food service for the fourth year. This has gone well and saved money for the district.
- I.T. was restructured last year for a savings of approximately $60,000 while contracting out in two areas: NAU ETC focuses on overall infrastructure maintenance; Vail USD contracts to oversee student data imperative to funding via student numbers.
- We will be looking into contracting for other areas over the next year. An in-depth procurement process is required (3-6 months). If this is of interest to you, we will keep you updated
2. What other entities might be asking taxpayers for tax monies?
- City: .55 pension, open space, streets. All sales tax, all in August, not November, nothing set in stone, but all likely to go to voters.
- Yavapai College: Has ability to raise their tax rate 2% without voter approval. Confirmed that they will not be going out to voters for anything this year.
3. Why do our tax dollars fund “non-academic” activities such as arts, music and sports?
- This is a very debatable and highly researched topic. Many universities and industries demand students that have a well-rounded education. In community surveys and several forums, our community was very clear that arts, music, and sports are extremely important to the overall success of our students.
4. Some citizens ask why PUSD is not a “basics” curriculum and believe that non-academic activities such as sports, arts, and etc. drive the need for increased taxes. Can you address where the funding for these activities originate (Primary & Secondary tax, State tax credit, Prop. 301, and federal monies)?
- Primary tax rate- creates the M&O and Capital budgets
- Secondary tax rate- pays for bonds and overrides.
- Prop 301- basic teacher increases, performance pay, instructional coaches, professional development.
- State Tax Credit- after school educational/extra-curricular activities.
- Federal monies/grant monies- All Title funds, Special Education.
5. The existing bond due to expire was approved by voters for a specific need. How can you call this proposal budget neutral?
- Budget neutral could be misleading. We need to be clear that it would be at the same tax rate we have been asking for since 2004 bond. That’s the intention.
- We need to be very clear to voters that we are asking their approval for new issues. The current needs are fiscally responsible replacement plans for safety issues, buses, technology, roofs, HVAC, flooring.
- An override would provide funding for staff that would lift salary status (from current 22% below state average to 18% below the state average) to attract and retain staff.
- All of these needs would come in at a cost to the taxpayers at or below the current expiring tax.
6. Where is the savings going from the two school closures and why wouldn’t that help? Why would PUSD need more money if we just restructured?
- The school closures were a result of a 2.1 million dollar budget reduction. This reduction was the result of a decrease of student enrollment, continued reductions in state funding, increases in utilities, fuel, maintenance and repair, and employee insurance costs. The bulk of the restructure savings come from a reduction of 42 staff (190 in last six years). The closures/budget cuts allow the District to meet budget for 2015-2016. There were no savings.
- If the schools are sold, monies from the sale of building may be used for large capital items only (not Maintenance and Operations, i.e. salaries, textbooks, supplies, etc.).
- The sale of school property is an unknown, as well as a lengthy process.
7. Why would monies go toward schools that are closing? What would happen to the bond monies for those line items if those schools sell?
- Currently, we own these buildings and have a fiscal and community responsibility to maintain the buildings.
- If a building/buildings sold, there are two options that the Governing Board would need to consider and approve:
i. Reduce the sale of the bond for the amount that would have gone into a building that has sold.
ii. Redistribute bond monies into remaining buildings.
8. How do we get parent support?
- There is a political action committee that would be working with community volunteers to engage as many community members as possible. Social media is big for younger voters.
- The District’s role will be to provide facts.
9. How do we address salary in an on-going way if an override lasts five years and tapers off?
- The District will do everything in its power to move that raise into the M&O funds of the district during the 5 (7) year period.
- The State lost a lawsuit which requires paying inflation rates that they held from districts over the last seven years. A repayment plan has not yet been created. If that money is repaid without restrictions, it could be used to offset local taxes.
- Many communities vote to continue override elections every five years.
10. Is full-day kindergarten being looked at?
- Currently, the state is not funding full-day kindergarten. This is a possible override expense. This has not been considered in this current override request at this point. Many Districts see this as a very import piece to early childhood learning as well as recruiting a strong enrollment of students for long term.
11. If the bond passes, it will not raise the existing taxes but what will happen if the override passes? Will property taxes increase and if so by how much?
- The combined bond and override tax rate will maintain the current tax rate (refer to tax rate worksheet). Our goal has been that we do not go above what we have already asked of our taxpayers. That’s a driving reason for considering going to the voters NOW.
12. How do you address putting monies into old buildings?
- Currently, the District has the responsibility to fiscally maintain these buildings for the community. Under lease agreements, it is still the responsibility of the district for large capital items (i.e., roofing, HVAC, and flooring). The buildings are a liability to the district and the community. We plan to utilize these buildings as community buildings, while creating revenue, until (if and when) they are sold or repurposed.
13. How do you address raises for administration?
- Currently, the district as a whole is less than the average pay for each position. This would create equity for each position and the responsibility associated with it. (Refer to salary comparisons in the PowerPoint presentation.)
14. How do we delineate the decrease in funding in the state due to budget cuts vs. decreased enrollment funding?
- Capital (DAA) funding continuously sees cuts each year (see PowerPoint presentation).
- Maintenance and Operations funding has increased slightly (since the lawsuit – 1.6%); however, student count/enrollment has decreased, creating a smaller bucket of money.
15. How can you use district website and other venues to inform people?
- The district has the ability to put out facts concerning the bond and override needs. There are very strict state guidelines about using school district resources to advocate for a bond/override. That said, all information that has been provided to this committee, including questions and concerns, will be posted on the website.
- We are continually looking for ways be transparent and communicate our work with the community. New ideas are encouraged.
- Staffing for web page is minimal (10 hours per week for district and 9 school websites).
16. Is there someone out there who can advise us?
- Stifel Financial consults pro bono prior to a bond to gather data on tax rates, bonding capacities, legislative updates, etc.
- Political action committees, separate from school districts, often seek local and/or professional support.
- Districts often hire a consultant to poll a community. This was done in 2013 and will not be done for this particular bond/override consideration.
17. Should we use a photo campaign to inform the community of the issues with the buildings, buses, etc.?
- There are mixed opinions on this. While photos show some people that we need assistance, others feel that this type of campaign would scare potential families away.
18. If 80% of students are supported bonds/overrides, what are the districts with the other 20% doing?
- Each district is unique. There are districts and communities that are not as concerned as our public is with education of the “whole” child. Other districts may choose to use one-time money, as PUSD has for years. Still yet, other districts simply feel that their voters will not support them and they do not ask (smaller districts are often in this category).
- Some districts have a tax “cap” and cannot request more (typical for small districts).
19. What is the bonding capacity in PUSD?
- Over $80 million.
20. Are we looking at all possibilities, or will we need to ask for more later?
- Our approach, after asking and listening to many in the community, is to ask for bare-bones essential needs only. After the last bond and override, we felt that this is what our community might support. We are anxious to hear more from this committee and the community.
21. Will the repairs be done correctly this time?
- Assuming that this question is addressing things we have talked about such as the roof at Prescott High School, the checks and balances within our tedious procurement process are meant to deal with quality. That said, things break, wear out over time, and require repair and/or replacement.
22. Can schools promote voter registration?
- Schools cannot use district equipment/funds/time to influence an election.
- The process of soliciting the community for input, such as this committee, is not considered influencing an election. Once a school board decides to go to election, our District will share guidelines around this with all employees. (We will share that information on the website and with community members.)