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7:57 PM Mon, Dec. 10th

School district unification expected to save money

(Second of five parts)

Money saved will be one of the pluses of unification when the Kingman Elementary School District and Mohave Union High School District merge into the Kingman Unified School District on July 1, 2001.

The merger means elimination of one of the two current superintendent positions.

Mike Ford earns $92,000 annually as superintendent of the MUHSD, while Betsy Parker makes about $72,000 per year as superintendent of the KESD.

It is not yet known what salary the superintendent of the unified district will make, but it will be less than the two combined.

Other savings are less clear cut.

"I don't think we'll see huge, significant savings the first year because it's very important to us that everyone keep their job, feel comfortable in their work and not have to worry," said Betsy Parker, superintendent of the KESD.

"But after we operate together for a year we'll probably see some ways we can streamline things.

"We've talked before about buying in bulk for one thing and the fact we'll only pay to maintain one Internet site and one set of phone service.

We're also going to build a wash bay for the buses and now we won't have to build two of them."

"There are going to be savings along the way that we don't know about specifically until we get there."

Each of the two districts presently has its own bus garage where maintenance is performed on buses or other district vehicles.

Those maintenance facilities are one of the first areas that will be consolidated, said Mike Ford, superintendent of the MUHSD.

"We have some very good people operating those facilities and when we put them all together it goes to the economy of scale," Ford said.

"We have a property down on Beale Street that needs to be sold and the money put toward upgrading our facility (on MacDonald Avenue) so it can handle the additional buses.

We also have an old auto shop that we use for servicing vans, cars, tractors and lawn equipment, and we'll probably maintain it."

The Beale Street property is the current site of the bus garage for the high school district.

Busing for 864 pupils attending three campuses of the Kingman Academy of Learning is now handled by the MUHSD.

Whether that arrangement will continue after unification is uncertain.

"That's a decision the unified board will have to make but it certainly is a revenue producer for us and I would probably recommend that we maintain it," Ford said.

"We bought five buses that we are paying for and after paying them off I anticipate we would make about $100,000 per year in profit (by continuing to bus KAL pupils)."

State assistance money is promised to any new unified district.

The amount of assistance is calculated from the district tax base with the state's portion coming from the equalization formula, Ford said.

"We won't know how much that will be until we start building the budget for next year," Ford said.

"The equalization formula says that you can only tax x amount of dollars to the public.

"We are considered a wealthy district at the high school level and our elementary district is considered in the middle of the pack or slightly above, so what happens is the majority of our subsistence comes from the local taxpayers.

We get 23 to 24 percent of our money from the state, so we're going to see some kind of shift there but until we combine the budgets next year and look at them I wouldn't even guess on it."

Assistance for unification will be calculated at 10 percent of the district budget the first year, 7 percent in the second year, and 4 percent in the third year, Ford said.

He estimated it will come to about $2.5 million in assistance for 2001-2002.

Estimated tax rates for 2000-2001 per $100 of assessed valuation are as follows: 2.0049 primary and 0.6337 secondary for KESD; and 2.22 primary and 0.480 secondary for MUHSD.

"The unified district will have a little bit of a different tax rate, but it won't go up much," Parker said.

Next: Teacher salaries and student to teacher ratios