West board sets bond priorities

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Issue before voters Feb. 5

By Mercy Lopez

With an election in February, the West Las Vegas School board has approved the priorities for its bond election.

On Feb. 5, voters will decide on a four-year general obligation bond for improvements throughout the west-side school district, which is asking voters to approve the bond question, which authorizes the district to issue general obligation bonds of no more than $5 million.

The district’s last bond election was in 2009, when voters approved the increase with about 70 percent of vote.

A two-mill levy is also on the ballot. If voters approve this tax question, property owners will see $2 per $1,000 of net taxable property value added to their yearly property tax bill.

Similar issues will also be in the hands of the voters at Las Vegas City Schools during their election also on Feb. 5. See a later edition of the Optic for details on the east-side ballot issues.

On the west side, board members Christine Ludi and David Romero are also seeking re-election to the school board.

“We are very fortunate that two current board members (Ludi and Romero) are running unopposed, so we can focus on our energies toward the passing of the bond and mill levy elections,” Superintendent Gene Parson said. “We have been using bond money very wisely … we have been trying to fill the needs the district has when it comes students and staff pertaining to their safety and comfort.”

To establish the district’s spending priorities the board met for a lengthy meeting late last month.

Board members unanimously agreed the district priorities need to include funding for the safety and security of students and staff, in light of the Connecticut school shooting in December.

They also unanimously approved the usage of the remaining bond and capital improvements proceeds from a previous election. They also want to fix the heating problems that have plagued the west-side district for years. Recently, a boiler went out in the high school gymnasium, causing players, coaches and fans to cheer on their team while bundled up.

The priorities the board established for the 2013 Bond and Capital Improvements Election are:

• School safety and security upgrades, including the relocation of the Tony Serna Jr. Elementary office.
• E-Rate funding match for technology upgrades throughout the district.
• New Mexico Public Finance Authority’s Public School Capital Outlay Council funding match for infrastructure improvements such as the current enhancements at Union Elementary — the district is responsible for coming up with 24 percent match for the standards-based projects.
• HVAC systems improvements throughout the district.
• Upgrades in athletic facilities, including property acquisition, construction and general maintenance.
• Upgrades pertaining to technology district wide.
• Facility upkeep and maintenance, including funding in the event of an emergency; for example, a heating system boiler unit completely going down.
• Music program equipment acquisition for all programs, including band, mariachi and choir.
• Professional development funding for maintenance department employees.

“It is important that our constituents realize that without them our district does not have the upgrades, construction and facilities that it currently has,” Parson said. “We just hope that once again they will continue to support the bond and the two-mill levy as they have always done in the past.”

The district used the 2009 bond money to do several upgrades within the district, including the renovation of the Frank Herrera Athletic Complex, improvements at Tony Serna Jr. Elementary School, security enhancements at Luis Armijo Jr. Elementary School, Union Street Elementary current renovation, as well as other projects. During the board meeting, the board unanimously approved the priorities for the remaining funding. The district plans to use this funding on:

• $30,000 E-Rate funding match.
• $600,000 on West Las Vegas Family Partnership reconstruction PSCOC Funding Match.
• $20,000 for added security improvements at Luis Armijo Jr. Elementary.
• $50,000 to relocate the Information Technology Department to the former Head Start facility located on Hot Springs Boulevard.
• $50,000 to fix the bleachers at Gillie Lopez Gymnasium at the high school.
• $50,000 to upgrade and fix the windows at West Las Vegas Head Start.

“In the future we are looking at improvements at West Las Vegas Middle School as well as building a gym that is conducive to the student population,” Parson said.

“The state is telling us that the gym we currently have is actually a high school sized gym — too large, too big, too old and too expensive to renovate. They would like the district to enter into an agreement with them to build a smaller gym that is right sized for the middle school population,” he said.

He added that the bond money if passed by the voters will help the district have the matching funding to make the necessary improvements.

“Without bond and two-mill levy money, there is no way we can accomplish the needs we have for the students in this district,” Parson said.