As the superintendent of Grand County School District I believe it is my responsibility to keep the public informed and current on educational issues. I will be providing information in many formats and I appreciate the opportunity to write a guest commentary.
Recently, there have been some letters to the editor expressing concern with the district’s financial status. I would like to address these issues in a question-and-answer format.
• What is the financial condition of the district?
The district was faced with many difficult financial problems based on the depressed economics of the last three years and the financial crisis of 2009. The question the patrons should ask is, “How did the school board, staff, and community respond to these difficult problems?” The answer is that they were transparent, involved community committees to help solve the problems and met these challenges head-on with honesty, integrity, and tenacity. The outcome was the complete resolution of these problems. The present financial condition of the district is economically solvent and solid. Our anticipated general fund balance for the 2012-13 year is $1,955,575.
• Is the Grand County School District in debt?
The question has been generated that the district is in debt. The question needs to be asked, “What kind of debt?” When we state that a public entity is in debt, there is a negative connotation that the entity is in financial trouble or has made poor financial decisions. If we use this definition of debt then every person that has a home mortgage or has financed a car is a poor financial manager and has made poor financial decisions. When we understand that public schools can only incur debt through a community vote, such as a bond levy, then we realize that this is a quality financial decision that enables districts to build schools. So, does the district have debt? Yes. The community of Moab passed a bond levy providing funds to build the new HMK Elementary School and the TSAC at the high school. This levy passed by over 62 percent of the vote. Bonds were sold, the schools were built with bond proceeds and this calculated debt will be paid over the next 20 years using dedicated community-approved taxes.
• What is the yearly maintenance cost on the Red Rock property?
We spend very little to maintain the Red Rock property. We water the trees and cut down the weeds.
• Why doesn’t the district sell or develop the Red Rock property?
It would be wonderful if the law allowed the district to develop the property into a subdivision. However, it is against the law. In essence you would be using public funds to compete with private developers.
The decision not to sell the property was made by the district’s land and facilities community committee, which determined that it was not in the best interests of the district to sell due to low property values and the future value of the property as a future building site.
I have worked with many sharp superintendents, real estate agents, and developers who have always advised me to never sell school property unless you can purchase land of equal value, in a better location that meet the future needs of the community. Grand County School District has a wealth of property that will ensure the ability to grow into Spanish Valley, expand the high school facilities and the Red Rock property.
• Why is the district spending funds to upgrade the soccer field at the high school?
First of all, the district is not spending money to upgrade the soccer field. We are building additional parking, a concession stand, and a bathroom facility. Anyone who has attended an activity at the high school understands the need for more parking. And anyone who has attended a soccer game is well aware of the need for adequate restroom facilities and concession stands by that field. In essence, we are providing equal access to participants and patrons of all sports. This decision was not made in isolation. Discussions on this project started in open board meetings on June 15, 2011, and were discussed openly until it was approved on July 18, 2012.
• Why are we spending money building the parking lot and outdoor facilities rather than spending the money for academic purposes?
The funds allocated for these improvements are recreation and capital funds that by law can only be used for recreational and capital improvements and are not available for academic purposes.
• Why were federal grants not used?
We are unaware of any federal grants to build the outdoor facilities mentioned above.
Finally, as a new member of the district and community I applaud the school board, staff, and community in making the difficult decisions necessary to ensure the future economic stability and academic excellence of our students. There will always be financial or academic issues that face us as an educational community. The manner in which we solve those problems will be our ability to work together for the future of our children in a positive collaborative effort.
Scott Crane is the superintendent of the Grand County School District.