Bond measure may depend on results

The Hemet Unified School District is considering a bond measure for school capital improvements. As part of the effort to secure community support and assess what the HUSD community believes are the high priority capital needs, HUSD has mailed a school facilities survey to district residents and parents of HUSD students.

“The district and the board are considering putting a bond issue on the ballot this November. We are in the planning and information-gathering stages on this and have been for the last few months,” said HUSD Trustee Vic Scavarda, who represents Idyllwild.

The survey appears on the computer screen when one goes to the district’s website

In the survey, the district offers eight school facility choices to rank from most important to least important: Improve student safety and security; repair and upgrade aging schools; prepare all students for college and career; improve student access to science, technology, engineering, arts and math; provide competitive 21st-century instruction; upgrade vocational and career education classrooms; improve classrooms and facilities to accommodate student enrollment growth; and other.

“The responses are providing the district and governing board ways in which we can ensure our facilities are meeting the needs of our community,” wrote Alexandrea Sponheim, HUSD’s public information officer. “We want to make sure we are being good listeners and that our assessment of facilities needs aligns with the community’s.”

HUSD’s current capital bond funding is nearly used, according to Scavarda. The general fund revenues in recent years have barely been sufficient to cover the district’s operating expenses. Reserves have declined in the past five years and are not expected to grow soon. Consequently, construction funding, especially for a large number of projects, will need to be funded from bond revenue.

“The responses will be used to determine if there is sufficient interest in the community for such a bond, and what does the community perceive as our greatest need?” Scavarda explained.

In January, HUSD had a consultant conduct a poll of about 700 voters. Among the results reported to the board was a significant majority (greater than 70 percent) felt repairing and maintaining schools helps local property values. And 60 percent believe school classrooms are aging and in need of repair.

“School safety issues and enhanced security are big concerns districtwide, and will take significant resources to implement,” Scavarda added. Further, no new school construction is planned. The budget projects for the next few years do not anticipate any substantial enrollment growth.

If a bond measure were on the November 2018 ballot, the district will have to file for it by Aug. 10. If voters approve a new bond measure, Scavarda emphasized that it would not add to local taxes, it would simply continue the current HUSD assessment.