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The Cost of Education

What a difference a few years can have on the dynamics of a school district. Back in November of 2016 newly-hired Superintendent of the Lake Havasu Unified School District #1 Diana Asseier was getting to know her way around the district while anxiously awaiting the outcome of an election that would shape the future of schools in Havasu for many years to come.

Thankfully, the election of 2016 saw the passage of a bond issuance and tax override that would greatly increase the school district’s footing as far as retaining and hiring quality professionals, while providing much needed upgrades in four main categories: maintenance, transportation, technology, and athletics. Superintendent Asseier took the time to explain where the district is at with the bond issuance and offered an update on where the money has already been spent, as well as where future funding will be allocated.

The bond issuance is scheduled to be paid out in three amounts over a seven-year period. “So far, we’ve used the money from the 2017 issuance, $16.2 million. Subsequent funding will be paid out in 2020 ($16 million), and 2023 ($16.6 million), ”states Asseier. It was noted that some projects were in dire need and could have posed a safety risk, so funds from the school facility board were used, without having to use bond funds. Plumbing, HVAC work, painting and weatherizing at both the elementary and high school levels has been completed.

One of the more visible use of the funding can be seen by anyone driving down Palo Verde — the complete revamping of the athletic fields. The athletics portion of the bond money was $3 million dollars and the total cost came in at nearly $4 million with the extra money coming from monies saved from other areas.

“The ball fields were a complete do over including the artificial turf, new track, bleachers, fencing, restrooms, concessions, and lighting,” notes Asseier. The field is also lined to be used for soccer and additional grading and drainage work was also completed. With a budget of $2.2 million dollars for transportation, money was put to good use with the purchase of three new busses and maintenance vehicles, including a multi-purpose truck that can be used to tow the band trailer. A scissors lift was also part o the purchase. Over the entire course of the 3 payouts of the bond issuance, plans call for a total of 28 new busses. Asseier notes that people may not realize this,

“But before we purchased the busses, we didn’t provide transportation to high school, kids were on their own. Now we have full-time bus transportation to not only our elementary and middle schools, but the high school as well.”

The $8.4 million allocated for maintenance has been put to maximum use with upgrades to HVAC system. Some plumbing issues were also addressed as were electrical upgrades. In order to upgrade servers and technology, there was a real need to upgrade the electrical systems, so they could handle the load. One other improvement that is readily visible is that the exterior of the high school was recently painted.

“It’s amazing what a coat of paint can do,” admits Asseier.

Technological upgrades, which were greatly needed, consumed $4.3 million of the first bond issuance. Server upgrades enhanced the Wi-Fi access for the middle schools and high school. Computer labs were also upgraded, and better efficiency and redundancies will help keep the data safe. Microsoft Active Directory is in place district wide as is a new financial system — Infinite Visions — that will help track personnel and other essential information. Additionally, improvements in cameras and surveillance were added, with more to come with the 2020 release of funds. While the bond money is earmarked for major upgrades and projects, the passage of the tax override has allowed the school district to help recruit and retain quality teachers.

“We were able to do a salary study and determine where our crucial positions are,” explains Asseier.

“For example, in the past we had four, part-time security staff. Now, with advanced training and increased requirements in security experience, the school now has four full-time people staffing security.”

Also, teachers and staff where given a 3% raise in the 2017/2018 school year and another 3% for the 2018/2019 school period.

“Work is progressing nicely and I’m happy to report that the district has stuck closely to what we promised we would do with the money,” explains Asseier.

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