WINNEMUCCA - As part of the 2008 election cycle, the Humboldt County community overwhelmingly supported the district's bond initiative. This bond provided critical support to meet the needs of aging school facilities in a tax neutral fashion.

At the time, the district was completing the Grass Valley Elementary Bond that had an assessment of 13 cents per $100 of assessed value. Understanding the difficult economic situation the nation and our community was facing, the district was committed to not asking for an increase to this funding level. In addition, the community indicated its preference that the majority of district projects be completed through a "pay as you go" process.

In compliance with the community's wishes, the district took a small bond of approximately $2.9 million to address the most critical facility needs. By securing this small bond, the district retained eligibility for a critical funding source: the Governmental Service Tax (GST). This GST fund provides approximately $240,000 dollars annually, which is the primary funding source for our building and grounds department. Retaining this fund was critical. All other projects were committed for completion through the pay as you go process.

In calculating the total anticipated level of funds to be generated over the 10 year rollover period, we were told to anticipate around $800,000 annually. As gold prices and our local economy have made significant improvements, our local revenue in support of the bond is now at $2 million annually. This has allowed us to accomplish the majority of the identified projects in a five-year period.

During the first five years of the bond projects, we have completed critical projects totaling approximately $10 million dollars. As was promised, every school has benefited through these sacred funds. Some of the biggest projects have seen the installation of air conditioning and updating of antiquated heating systems. Other major projects have included re-roofing, new windows, new doors, asphalt improvements, asbestos removal, and ADA updates. Many other projects have been completed as well.

We now find ourselves in the position of needing to reprioritize projects. Though not everything that we committed to in 2008 has been completed, we are at the point where a number of other needs are quickly coming to light. These needs are highlighted when we consider that the median age of HCSD's school buildings is currently 56 years. As a comparison, our newest school is FFMS, which was completed in 1990; our oldest is Winnemucca Grammar School.

As our schools continue to age, the need to ensure that the needs of our students are met only increases. No one could imagine during the '50s and '60s that we would require the level of electrical and technological needs that we currently face. Also, little thought was given to the security of our facilities.

As a result, after an exhaustive review of previous priorities, a new evaluation of facilities, and discussions with staff, administration and school board members, a new list of projects totaling $9.5 million has been identified. These projects encompass every school in the district, and range from playground equipment, to new concrete and asphalt, to continued re-roofing needs, and a continuation of cooling needs in the remainder of our schools.

In addition to the new projects identified, we continue to work on single point of entries at our schools, with the remaining locations scheduled for updates over the next several years. This requires a fiscal commitment; however, the community has clearly stated that student safety is paramount and is expected to be completed.

As we accept the responsibility to ensure that our facilities are kept up to date and are safe for students, staff and community, a continuation of community support provided through a "pay as you go" rollover bond will be critical. As a reminder, with a median age of 56 years, the needs at each location continue to grow.

Understanding that funds provided by the community are sacred and must be treated with complete fidelity and discretion, the district is seeking your comments and feedback as we continue to move forward. If you are aware of needs in the district that you do not believe have been addressed, please feel free to contact me and share your thoughts. Also, please contact me with any suggestions you may have.

Dr. David Jensen is Superintendent of Humboldt County School District and can be reached at djensen@humboldt.k12.nv.us or at (775) 623-8218.