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Sedona voters will be asked to approve funds to build new classrooms, repair old ones and continue current programs.

By Mike Cosentino

Larson Newspapers

Sedona voters will be asked to approve funds to build new classrooms, repair old ones and continue current programs.

The Sedona-Oak Creek School District is asking voters to allow the sale of $73.4 million in bonds for capital improvements and $771,000 for district operations funds.

It will also seek voter approval of $214,000 for kindergarten-through-third-grade spending.

The district’s two consulting firms, Stone & Youngberg and Gust & Rosenfeld, claim the rise in taxes will be non-existent or negligible.

They have scheduled the sale of the revenue bonds to "dovetail" with the paying off of previous bonds. Thus, no or little tax increases should show up on the secondary tax assessment bills for voters in Yavapai and Coconino counties.

All three decisions will be made by Tuesday, Nov. 6, by mail-in ballot, SOCSD Superintendent Kim Randall said.

Arizona school funding regulations allow districts to go to voters for approval to override state-imposed budget caps by 10 percent overall and 5 percent for kindergarten through third grade specifically.

Randall emphasized this is not new money but that the district is asking to be allowed to continue the current level of spending.

"Not having the overrides approved will result in a decrease of available funds for salaries and benefits and other maintenance and operations needs," Randall said.

District staffing increased by four this school year. Three new teachers were hired for Sedona Red Rock High School and one for West Sedona School.

WSS Principal Lisa Hirsch spoke with a quiet intensity on the needs of her school and its students.

"We do not have enough rooms and some of the rooms we do have are — let’s just say not up to the standard of a modern kindergarten classroom," Hirsch said.

Hirsch cited numerous leaks in walls and that the buildings are so old, 37 years in some cases, that replacement materials do not exist.

"I taught in the Bronx, N.Y., and this place is definitely ragged around the edges," Hirsch said.

Hirsch stressed it’s the learning environment for students that she is concerned about.

"The learning environment here is OK, but it is below the standard it should be," Hirsch said.

She offered a tour to anyone who wanted to know more.

SOCSD isn’t the only district that asks for more money for its operational budget.

"To say that 80 percent of the districts in Arizona are operating with override funds would be conservative," said Marv Lamer, superintendent of the Valley Academy for Career and Technology Education and a long time school funds manager.

Lamer said that 60 percent of Verde Valley districts currently are on override budgets.

Hirsch can be reached at WSS at 204-6600.

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