School board puts technology funding question to public vote

Voters will decide to fund technology through bond or levy, credit or debit, in February

Megan Petersen
Farmington Daily Times
Farmington Municipal School District Chief Financial Officer Randy Bondow talks about a proposed change to how the district pays for its technology on Friday at the district headquarters Farmington.
  • The board vice president said the change wouldn't affect how much citizens pay.
  • The board will also send a construction and maintenance levy renewal proposal to voters in a special election.
  • If approved, the 2.25 mill levy would replace Ed Tech Notes bonds.

 

FARMINGTON — The Farmington school board has tasked voters with deciding whether to switch from a bond to a levy to pay for technology in the Farmington Municipal School District.

The board approved an election proclamation during a regular meeting on Thursday that calls for voters to decide whether to impose a new 2.25 mill levy that would fund technology in Farmington schools. The proclamation also calls for voters to decide whether to renew a 2 mill levy that funds construction and maintenance projects.

The levies will be listed on the ballot in the Feb. 6 special election as HB 33 for technology and HB 9 for construction and maintenance.

The board voted 4-1 to approve the proclamation, with board member Sherry Galloway dissenting.

Farmington Municipal School District Chief Financial Officer Randy Bondow said using a levy to fund technology instead of bonds will eliminate interest. If approved by voters, the levy would replace a bond that the district calls “Ed Tech Notes” that has been renewed every two years to purchase laptops for all middle and high school students in the district.

“(The levy) takes the pressure off having to pay all that interest,” Bondow said today. “It’s not really smart to invest in a lot of technology that is sometimes obsolete by the time you pay them off, since it takes five years to pay those Ed Tech Notes off, so this is going to make a little more sense as it’s more ‘pay as you go’ when we collect money from the property taxes.”

The most recent Ed Tech Notes bond will be paid off in two years, Bondow said.

Farmington Municipal Schools Chief Financial Officer Randy Bondow says it's not smart to invest in new technology that is obsolete by the time the bonds through which the technology was financed are paid off.

 

Mike Isaacson, vice president of the school board, said the district could continue using Ed Tech Notes bonds to fund school technology if the new levy does not pass, but the change won’t affect what citizens pay for technology in schools.

“This is a new tax or a new levy, but it does not raise the current tax base that any one in San Juan County or Farmington school district pays,” Isaacson said. “The reason why is because we have them borrowing money to fund technology, but now what we’re doing is converting from a credit card to a debit card. We’re paying for our technology on cash flow.”

The board made two changes to the proposed proclamation in removing clauses about the taxes being used to pay for building leases and transportation. Galloway said she was concerned that if the proclamation was presented too broadly, funding could be used for other expenses in the future.

“I’m just concerned that if we open it up too broadly, it could be easy for us or future boards and administrations to maybe think we’re in a good place with technology and maybe let a cycle pass and let us use this for capital improvement or whatever, and we would get behind in technology,” Galloway said during the meeting.

Farmington Municipal School District Superintendent Eugene Schmidt said a board policy will be drafted that would designate that the levy revenue would be used to pay for technology before anything else.

“At the next meeting, we can give the staff direction to bring a policy that would bring the community confidence that if (the 2.25-mill levy) was approved that it would be for the purpose of technology,” Schmidt said.

The next school board meeting is scheduled for Dec. 14.

Megan Petersen covers business and education for The Daily Times. Reach her at 505-564-4621 or mpetersen@daily-times.com.