Use it or lose it? School board considers third option for I&S funds

By Shanna Cummings

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CCAISD superintendent Ken Baugh provided school board members with an option for using funds in the Interest & Sinking (I&S) fund balance that includes both bond debt repayment and building/infrastructure improvements for the school.

Baugh reiterated the possibility that earmarking the funds for specific projects may prevent the state from recapturing funds in public school fund balances in order to make up for revenue losses due to COVID-19. During the December 2020 board meeting, he offered two options for using the funds – one involving paying down the principal on the 2016 and 2019 bonds, and the other for various building projects. The board requested a third option combining the two.

The district will have $16 million to put toward bond payments and other projects, Baugh said. Even after paying all the district can legally pay toward bonds without hurting its bond rating and tax interest, about $9 million will remain in the I&S fund balance. His three top-priority projects: an expanded elementary playground, a junior high activity area and an ion filtration system that cleans the air of germs, including the COVID-19 virus.

The question is now in the hands of school board trustees, who will continue to discuss it in meetings over the next few months.

Other CCAISD news

During the principal’s report, Elementary school principal Charles Gonzalez shared a recent surprise treat for the students. School cafeteria services and local McDonald’s manager Nelli Garibay worked together to create Happy Meals for pre-k through grade five students that met state nutritional standards, and at a discounted price. Garibay, who also has a child that attends school here, made a large personal contribution toward the bill, as a way of giving back to the community. The students surprised Garibay with a thank you note. “In the community, we are sticking together,” Gonzalez said. “I know it’s very, very difficult. We start up, we shut down, we send people home, they come back, we do the same thing. But the community is standing behind us.”

Athletic Director Brock Tyrrell updated the board on the status of the Girls and Boys basketball teams, both undefeated in the district. He explained some of the precautions taken to prevent COVID infections in the athletics department this season, like keeping the Girls and Boys teams on separate buses for away games, separating athletes from non-athletes in athletics areas like weight rooms and keeping groups small where possible. Fans and family members at the games have generally followed the mask mandate. He also wanted to remind fans attending home games not to park in the bus lane, which is reserved for the visiting team’s buses.

The Van Horn Education Foundation, which was created in 2018 to support high school students also pursuing an associate’s degree or technical certification, continues to grow, thanks to community donations and business contributions Baugh said. Community members have signed up for recurring monthly donations via the Foundation’s page on the school district’s website (www.ccaisd.net). Payments in lieu of taxes for oil, gas and two solar operations totaling $250,000 will put the account over the $500,000 goal and trigger cash disbursals on earned interest. This money will be used for scholarships and other assistance.

Baugh said COVID infection numbers at the school have increased due to holiday travel and get togethers. At the time of the meeting, all nine known cases were students. Nearly 250 students were exposed and quarantined.

Finally, the latest parking lot project will also serve as the band’s practice field once finished. The lot will have gates installed to prevent damage, but will open up for large events like graduation.

The board will schedule the next meeting once the yearly audit is completed.