SPECIAL MEETING – 2018-2019 BUDGET MEETING: Wednesday, June 27, 6 pm, Three Rivers Union School library
The Three Rivers Union School board of trustees met Wednesday, June 20, for their regular meeting. Among the agenda items were some significant matters before the board that will determine the future direction of the kindergarten-through-eighth-grade school.
Reviewing the changes for the 2018-2019 budget was the priority agenda item; the new budget must be approved by June 30 so a special meeting has been scheduled to approve the budget for Wednesday, June 27 (see Kaweah Kalendar for details).
The public may still review and comment on the 104-page document. It’s currently available in the school office during business hours. After Sue Sherwood, superintendent/principal and eighth-grade teacher, explained the staff line-by-line review, there was mostly good news.
“Of course, some things cost more this year but I think we can live with the increases and meet all our obligations,” Sherwood reported to the board.
Bottom line: The total budget (including expenses to educate of $9,543 per student) is projected to be $1,316,904, up from $1,201,000 for 2017-2018.
Sue Sherwood also announced her intention to step away from her dual role as administrator and teacher, which she has been juggling for seven years, to return in the fall to teach eighth grade only. A candidate will be sought to be hired as a new superintendent/principal, a position Sherwood has held for 23 years. The successful candidate will be just the fifth superintendent in the 90-year history of TRUS.
The downsizing of Sherwood’s role would affect the budget. As a Step 28 teacher, she would be paid $68,000 annually; a new superintendent’s salary would be projected to be around $100,000.
When the new budget is approved, no combination classes will be necessary nor will any teacher lose their job. The board voted unanimously to approve the Tulare County Office of Education to assist with the search for a superintendent at a cost of $1,500.
General Election bond
Scott Sherwood, an elected trustee and Sue Sherwood’s son, said that for the next three years at least the 138-student district is solvent. But like every district with aging facilities, especially small districts like Three Rivers, there is not enough carryover to complete necessary re-roofing, modernization of classrooms, upgrade the transportation facilities, and other infrastructure upkeep.
In other words, to do any of a handful of necessary construction projects, funds must be sought elsewhere. TRUS is currently appealing a hardship grant application where they barely missed out on a sizable portion of modernization money to help with the most pressing projects.
The decision on that more than $1 million will come later this year and can’t be counted on, so the board is out of options except for one: passing a bond issue in the November election.
To help the board make a decision if pursuing a bond issue even makes sense, Sherwood invited Rex Despain, a consultant with Isom Advisors, to make a presentation that answers the question, Could a bond issue be successful in Three Rivers?
The consultant made it clear that the bonds are strictly regulated and can only be used for facility upgrades; no salaries or other expenses would be funded by the bond. Despain said they can know definitively if the bond is worth pursuing after conducting a poll. The survey would gather at least 400 responses.
“It takes 400 responders for a statistical survey to be valid,” Despain explained. “With Three Rivers having 1,500 registered, two-thirds of who are 55 and over, 400 would be an important sample. The over-55 participants vote at a higher percentage than the average.”
Key to any bond issue being approved is that California’s Proposition 39 changed the playing field. Now it takes 55 percent of voters to pass a bond measure when previously it required a two-thirds majority.
A previous Three Rivers bond issue in 2014 garnered 65 percent and failed by less than one percent. Those same numbers in November 2018 would guarantee passage.
Over a longer term, the district could hope to generate around $4 million. The assessment of each parcel may not exceed $30 per $100,000 in assessed valuation.
“It’s not based on the market value of the property but rather on the county’s tax rolls,” Despain said. “The county valuation is usually much less than market value.”
Relative to exploring placing a bond issue on the ballot, the vote was unanimous to proceed. Despain’s firm has been successful on 73 of 74 recent California bond issues they have conducted.
“If we take on your project we’ll pass the bond issue or you don’t pay any additional fees beyond the initial cost of the survey, which is $2,000,” Despain said.
TRUS must decide by August 10 in order to have the bond on the November ballot, so Despain said he will get started with the survey as early as this weekend.
“The survey is conducted by calling registered voters in Three Rivers,” Despain said. “We’re not asking for your vote; we just need answers to a few questions.”
Special budget meeting
The next meeting of the TRUS board of trustees is special meeting on Wednesday, June 27, to vote on the 2018-2019 budget. Members of the Three Rivers community are always welcome to attend the meetings.