The HUSD Governing Board could tentative approve the district’s capital budget on April 5. (Higley Unified)

The Higley Unified School District Governing Board last week took a second look at the proposed $17.4-million capital budget for the fiscal year beginning July 1.

Tentative approval is expected April 5 with final adoption in June.

“The major emphasis of this budget is in major maintenance projects,” CFO Tyler Moore said March 8. “Our schools are aging. The average age of our schools is now 16 years.

“It’s really the year in which we hit a lot of this major projects in terms of time to basically tear out and redo some roofing, weatherization – those big projects that cost a lot of money (and) typically have that 20-year timeline.”

Moore said the district is paying for a lot of its major maintenance projects by transferring money from the M&O budget meant to support daily operations because it doesn’t have additional capital funding via a bond or an override.

The district’s $77.2-million bond failed in November, as did another proposal the prior year.

Moore said staff is always working to supplement its funding with the state School Facilities Oversight Board, which gives grants for repairs and renovation to schools that don’t meet building adequacy.

“This funding source is limited,” Moore said. “It’s supposed to encompass all the state schools...with every school submitting projects to that you can see how it can limit the number of projects that get approved.

“But we are constantly submitting projects to get funded by that source and that is always our first goal before utilizing our own budget.”

The capital budget also includes funding for security equipment, with $25,000 more going for that since the first review on Feb. 8.

“This was proposed in the bond, the 2022 bond that did not pass,” Moore said. “And so we realized that it’s still needed for our district, a priority to invest in security. We have aging security equipment so we are looking at phasing in that equipment over the next several years.”

Moore said in looking at the projects the district’s principals submitted for funding the recurring theme was security cameras. Principals submit projects that are large and can’t be funded by the individual campuses’ capital budgets.

“So, we are investing that $25,000 back into security cameras,” Moore said. “That will allow us to do another additional camera to every single campus next year. In that original proposal the $350,000 that provided five cameras for every single campus, now we are able to get an additional campus on every single campus.”

The $17.4 million includes $4 million in budget carry forward and $6.6 million from the M&O budget with $3.5 million of that going to pay the two middle schools’ annual lease payments. The rest of the M&O money is for the major maintenance projects.

The board also voted 4-0 to tentatively approve a $124-million maintenance and operations budget, which had its second review Feb. 22. Board member Amanda Wade was absent.

The board also unanimously approved a $2.9 million contract with Chasse Building Team to do the Phase II project for Higley High School.

The project includes refreshing the restrooms, modifying the traffic flow and upgrading the exterior lighting and is being funded out of this fiscal year’s budget. The failed bond proposal included a large renovation of the high school.

Moore said the district worked with students, teachers and the community to identify priority projects for the high school.

He said in the community meetings several students commented that they don’t use the restrooms at Higley because “they do not feel comfortable going to the bathroom at the school.”

“That is unacceptable from a district’s standpoint that we don’t have public restroom facilities that students feel comfortable using,” he said.

The school also has its original lighting and there’s not enough exterior lights for when students are on campus during the late evenings for sporting events and after-school activities, according to Moore.

The traffic flow also is going to see changes, including relocating the bus drop to the back of the campus and reconfiguring the front lot to get traffic off of Pecos Road from families dropping off their students.

The only remaining item in the Phase II project is the exterior weatherization and painting for Chaparral Elementary, which an assessment found a 99% failure for the two.

Moore said the district has tentative approval from the State Facilities Oversight Board to fund 82% of that project.

“That exterior weatherization will be well over $1 million and so 82% is $800,000, which is a huge lift from our budget,” he said. “Now we do get to play the game, waiting for the grant to be approved.”

Phase 1, a new 24,000-square-foot, two-story building with 12 classrooms and an upstairs lecture hall at Higley is on track to open by next school year. Enrollment at the school has grown drastically over the last several years, according to Moore.

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