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Letter: Prescott schools hiding the math

Thirty million dollars, bucks, clams, smackers, greenbacks.

That's a lot of money -- any way you say it -- for the Prescott School District's latest plan to build a new high school with auditorium and reconfigure grade levels in the existing three schools.

Yup, $30 million can be said in many different ways. However, the Prescott School Board and administration really can't bring themselves to say (admit) it, or other costs involved, in any districtwide communications with residents. Not in district newsletters. Not in "Superintendent's Scoop" columns. Not in press releases.

Still, all three means have been used extensively over the last seven months to "educate" the public about building-related issues. But most student capacities given in them for the existing schools were the lowest numbers (or even lower) from ranges established by the School Board.

The misleading information has gone uncorrected, even after being pointed out at the January board meeting. Fudging the current high school capacity and enrollment continues in the April newsletter.

A facilities committee determined the plan and construction cost parameters late last year. The School Board accepted the plan in December. Alas, even when questioned in open board meetings since then, the members and administration have remained mum on costs.

On April 9, a community listening session was held. Despite a lengthy opening presentation, absolutely no mention was made of any costs. Only after audience questioning did the numbers finally come out:

• $30 million for construction,

• $240 per $100,000 assessed valuation in additional property taxes per year for 20 years for district residents,

• $500,000 more annually for added staff salaries and benefits,

• $220,000 more annually for utilities.

In a 2009 survey nearly 78 percent of respondents opposed a similarly large property tax increase for buildings. So, on to another survey in May.

Jim Reichert