SIERRA VISTA — Sierra Vista Unified School District bond oversight committee members were updated on the progression of bond projects Tuesday, and voted against a bus refueling station the district is proposing to construct.
Bond projects that are underway include paving around the district office and Rothery Learning Center, bathroom remodeling at Buena High School and four elementary schools, new carpeting in rooms at four elementary schools, and plans for construction of a new multipurpose room at Pueblo del Sol Elementary School.
“It’s been amazing to see the transformation of some of our facilities,” District Superintendent Kelly Glass said in an interview following the committee meeting. “Our bond project manager Steve Gibson has done an amazing job securing bids and overseeing construction at the different sites.”
While oversight committee members applaud the progresses, they do not support a proposed refueling station for school buses, something the district would like to build with bond funds as a way to save money on a fuel tax. Because the refueling station is not listed as a bond project, committee members argued that it should not be funded with bond money.
The proposal calls for constructing a refueling station on the back part of Buena High School property — in an area that houses the school district’s transportation department — where a number of buses are already parked.
“We have an IGA (Intergovernmental Agreement) with the City of Sierra Vista to purchase fuel,” Glass said. “By purchasing the city’s diesel, we have to pay a diesel fuel tax, which we would not be paying if we had our own tanks,” hence the desire for a refueling station.
Former principal and school board member Marge Carrithers sits on the oversight committee and was the only committee member that supported the refueling station.
“We know that the line item for bus fuel is currently $300,000 in deficit because we’ve been paying fuel taxes that we didn’t budget for. By creating a refueling station, the district would save a good deal of money in the fuel tax alone,” she said.
Carrithers also noted that the original list of bond projects included a bus refueling site at one time, but that as the district started prioritizing projects, the refueling station was removed from the list.
The district is receiving $40,000 in liquidated damages, a penalty a contractor pays for failing to meet a deadline on a construction project. The money is coming due to delays on Buena’s practice gym and theater workshop.
A discussion about the $40,000 got a bit heated when it was suggested the excess money go toward the refueling station.
“We shouldn’t be buying things with that money that are not in the bond,” committee member Doris Caldwell said. “It’s not what we promised the public. We’re not going to get all the way through these projects because they’re costing us more than expected.”
“Every time you take money that should be in the bond pot for something that is not in the bond ... we’re cheating the public,” she argued.
But Glass says the bond was written to be flexible.
“We have funds left from the transportation side of the bond, which would fall within administrative costs under student transportation,” the superintendent said. “The refueling station could be funded under the transportation component. I confirmed this with a bond attorney.”
While there are no firm numbers about the cost, the refueling station estimate comes in around $300,000.
“We have enough money in the bond to pay for it because of projects that fall under the School Facilities Board that should be covered with those funds,” Glass said.
“The oversight committee is being proactive in trying to ensure we are using our money properly while we wait for the School Facilities Board funding to come through. Meanwhile, we’ll continue to explore different options to reduce what we’re spending on fuel.”