Tuesday, February 21, 2017

A Penny Still Buys a Lot

On March 10th the school district will receive bids for phase one of our elementary school renovation project. Located in what we refer to as the 'East Wing', we will be doing work in the kindergarten classrooms and fine arts area. The project will also include the auxiliary gymnasium and kitchen, and there are plans in this phase to make our competition gym handicap accessible by installing a ramp and ADA restroom in the vicinity of our elementary art and music room. Specifically speaking, we will be installing new windows, air conditioning, ceilings and LED lighting fixtures. We will also be replacing all the temperature controls for our heating system. All told, our estimation for this phase of the project is between $550,000 and $600,000. 

You should take note that this is phase one, which obviously indicates future phases. Indeed, the board has earmarked roughly $500,000 a year for the next several years to completely renovate and modernize our elementary attendance center. At the same time we are doing this, we'll be replacing school buses, putting new roofs on our buildings, purchasing appliances for our kitchen, and acquiring new desks and furniture for our classrooms. Speaking of which, we have identified roughly $30,000 in furniture expenses for the 2017-2018 school year; a big portion of which will be used to replace lockers in the middle school. 

I haven't even mentioned the unknown expenses yet, those that typically rear their head at the worst possible time. So far this year, those emergencies that pop up have encumbered an expense of just over $20,000. Luckily, all of these things are budgeted for, even that unplanned emergency. In case you are wondering, through the month of February we have invested $720,093.94 in capital expenditures during this fiscal year, with the majority of them falling over the previous summer.

There are two revenue sources that make up our capital projects fund; the Physical Plant and Equipment Levy (PPEL) and Secure an Advanced Vision for Education (SAVE). For the sake of clarity, the SAVE fund is the one cent sales tax. Between these two revenue streams we receive between $800,000 and $850,000 annually, with the SAVE fund providing the lions share of these resources. As you can see from the table above, since 2009, Hudson has received $4,946,078 in sales tax revenue.

Without the SAVE fund we wouldn't be able to do many of the facility upgrades and renovations that we have planned. With our PPEL fund only, we would likely be able to manage the upkeep of our transportation fleet and cover the costs associated with computer hardware replacement. Anything beyond that would be quite a stretch. That is why we advocate for the extension of the SAVE statewide penny which is scheduled to sunset in 2029.

Arguably some may suggest that there should be no rush in the renewal since there is currently still 12 years remaining. Yet the fact is, many school districts bond against future revenue in the form of 'anticipated revenue bonds'. Currently, school districts have limited bonding capacity since this window is so short and beginning to close. Now, in our case the board has been committed to a 'pay as we go' philosophy, one that quite frankly has served us well. But for our planning purposes it is important to always be forward thinking. Once we finish our elementary renovation project, our sites will turn to the high school. After all, that building is now approaching 20 years old! Our current facility plan, by the way, projects out to the 2020-2021 school year. I can promise you that in 2021 and beyond (2029 for example), we are not magically going to have all of our building needs addressed. 

Luckily House File 230 has been introduced, which extends SAVE to January 1, 2050, giving schools a 20 year extension on this valuable resource. Absent the SAVE fund, school districts would be forced to either delay facility upgrades or rely on General Obligation bonds, which require a 60% super majority to pass and usually come along with a property tax increase. The Board of Directors has identified the preservation and extension of the statewide penny as one of it's legislative priorities. 

I often hear positive comments from our citizens about the numerous projects or improvements we have made to our facilities. Indeed it fills us all with pride to have great facilities for our students and visitors to our district. To keep our facilities up to date and modern we need your help. Please contact your legislators and tell them to support House File 230! You can find your legislator here

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