School district staff and community members gathered at the Peoria Unified School District on Feb. 26 to discuss financial options and prepare to advise the governing board on a potentially impactful decision.
“For those of you who weren’t able to make it to the last meeting, we’re here to gather information and discuss, and then make a recommendation to the board,” PUSD Chief Financial Officer Michelle Myers said to the group of 11 that held its first meeting on Feb. 12.
The 11 members of the PUSD Citizens’ Advisory Committee will meet about twice a month before submitting a proposal to the PUSD governing board to call for a bond or override election Nov. 3.
If the committee does recommend such action, it would recommend an amount of money or percentage to correspond with each potential vote.
In November, voters turned down a $33.7 million override by a mere 133 votes after several vote counts.
According to the PUSD website, the loss in the vote could have a major financial impact on the district’s schools.
“Without an override in place, the district would lose more than $26 million a year in funds to support people and programs.
“All staff would see a compensation decrease, the district could no longer maintain health care professionals and assistant principals on all campuses, putting the district in a safety deficit. In addition, class sizes would increase and the ability to offer programs such as arts, music, physical education and gifted education programs would be threatened.”
PUSD still has two years remaining on a seven-year override implemented in 2015, but the finances would phase out if the override is not renewed or replaced.
Managing directors of Stifel Financial’s Phoenix branch gave a presentation to the committee on details of the district’s finances.
The presentation projects PUSD still owes $207.8 million of outstanding principal for the 2020 fiscal year. Payments for this principle are ongoing, decreasing gradually from $30.3 million to $14.9 million by 2026, and staying at that annual cost until 2036.
While the committee has yet to make an official recommendation, a bond or override being put into place would allow the district a bit more financial flexibility.
“We do have bonding capacity, so we still do have opportunities,” Myers said.
For more information about Citizens’ Advisory Committee or to find a meeting schedule, visit peoriaunified.org.