A 15-member Citizens Advisory Committee will look at Highly Unified District’s needs and make a recommendation to the governing board on whether to hold a future election for a bond and budget override.
Voters denied HUSD’s requests for a bond in 2021 and in 2022 and the 15% override expires in 2025.
“I’m excited for this citizens committee,” President Tiffany Shultz said.
The five-member board voted unanimously Nov. 15 to create the committee.
“In recent history we’ve used committees to establish a strategic plan where we could gather input from various stakeholders,” CFO Tyler Moore said. “You create a more comprehensive recommendation with that.”
The staff-recommended committee will comprise stakeholders such as parents, business leaders and teachers, according to Moore.
“The goal is to seek community input,” he said. “In our ongoing effort of transparency and community engagement, we are proposing this citizens committee to seek other expertise and leadership to assist the district and the governing board with critical school funding issues regarding the continuation of our override … and any potential future bond election.”
Each governing board member will appoint one person to the committee. The remaining 10 positions will be selected by district administration through an application process posted on HUSD’s website.
Applicants must meet one of three criteria – live within HUSD’s boundaries, work for the district or have a child attending a district campus.
Moore said that the committee members will be announced at the Dec. 13 meeting.
After the winter break, the group will be expected to attend five scheduled meetings, open to the public, and present a recommendation to the board on April 3, according to Moore. Committee members will have the option to attend virtually, he added.
Board member Michelle Anderson asked if there will be back-up members should someone drop out or is the seat left empty.
Moore said that it takes a lot of legwork to bring everyone up to speed at the same time.
“It’s unfortunate if someone were to leave,” he said. “I don’t know if we will replace them just to keep the ball moving forward.”
He also responded to Anderson’s question about attendance, saying it will be spelled out during the application process that attendance at all five meetings is expected.
“I feel it would be inherently important to be involved whether virtually or in-person in every single one of these meetings,” Moore said.
The 15% budget override was approved in 2019 and allows the district to increase spending for its day-to-day operations, such as for staff salaries and supplies.
HUSD has used the funding to increase teacher compensation; maintain and improve elementary specials such as arts, music, physical education and district athletics; provide staff to maintain average class sizes; support gifted, special education and all-day kindergarten; and provide education resources to classrooms.
Moore at the Oct. 11 meeting told the governing board that if the override is not continued in 2024, it will begin to phase down in Fiscal Year 2025 with a a $4.5 million drop in funding to the maintenance and operation budget. In the following fiscal year, the funding will decrease by $9.2 million and then sunset the following year.
The district’s bond monies for capital projects from the 2013 and 2019 approvals also are all spent as HUSD faces buildings that continue to age and need maintenance and repair.
Higley’s moves last week comes in the wake of Gilbert Public School’s failed attempt to win voter approval of a $100 million bond and an override continuation.
Final unofficial results showed the bond was defeated 52.4%-46.6% while the override failed by a 53%-47% vote.
Of 18 school districts in Maricopa County with bond measures totaling over $3 billion this month, six failed – including Mesa Public Schools and Queen Creek Unified.
Cecilia Chan, GSN Managing Editor www.gilbertsunnews.com
2023-11-20 07:00:00 , ""news"site: inmaricopa.com/" – Vivrr Local