By Mary Wilson
In a 5-1 vote (members Alexander, Bastian, Casey, Greene and Stewart in favor; Polette opposed, and Fisher absent), the Grandview School Board approved last Thursday a no tax increase bond issue of $9 Million that will appear on April ballots. The board met in work session last Tuesday in order to make an educated decision. Within the current eighty-cent levy, the district projects the debt services account will remain fairly strong.
As of now, the bonding capacity for the district (figured by 15% of current assessed valuation plus 15% of state assessed railroad valuation) is roughly $32 million.
“The district can support a 9 million bond issue easily,” said Dr. Roger Adamson, vice president of L.J. Hart and Company. “On a 9 million issue, with a projected 2.5% interest rate, the 80 cent levy will stay the same. The projection is 1% growth through 2015.”
Assistant superintendent of finance and operations Ann Marie Cook suggests it’s better to be conservative.
“This shows our capacity to support that service payment,” said Cook.
Every year, about $3.6 million will be paid off (not all principal), which allows the bonding capacity to increase as time goes on. With the $9 million bond issue, the bonding capacity for the district would be around $23 million.
“That’s a tough one because one part of that is easy, we know that our buildings cumulatively are old, they’re as old as I am,” said superintendent Dr. Ralph Teran. “We know that we did the bond in 2007, the economy hit the skids and you couldn’t get any money. It wasn’t until 2011 we were able to go out again, and so here we are.”
Proposed projects for the money will go to the facility improvement team for the district. The ballot issue itself will be in broader terms, which will provide the district with some flexibility to not necessarily be tied to a specific project, but rather a “type” of project. Ultimately, the decision on what projects do occur will be the School Board’s, as the district only has authority to approve projects up to $15,000.
At the top of the preliminary list of projects are safety enhancements. The district has taken some steps recently to try to improve the safety of some locations, and this would be a continuation of those improvements. These include security vestibules, similar to what is currently at Belvidere and Butcher-Greene Elementary Schools. It also includes camera systems and new intercom systems.
“Some of our schools have some pretty outdated intercom systems, and we’re not sure of the ability to repair and add on to those as time goes on,” said Cook.
Dr. Teran stressed the importance of security upgrades at each location.
“Clearly, the topic of safety is at hand,” said Dr. Teran. “Everything has been greatly impacted by the tragedy at Sandy Hook. Safety is the top thing. These vestibules and so forth, finishing that out, is a huge priority. Intercom systems that work adequately and all those things, I wanted to stress because it puts a new dimension to every district that I’m aware of.”
Other proposed projects include classroom renovations (ceiling, lighting, windows), restroom renovations, gyms, athletic fields, auditorium upgrades, instruments, and district-wide roofing, rooftop HVAC and asphalt.
“We did some restroom renovations at some of our schools over the summer, and it is amazing the number of comments we’ve gotten from students, staff, and parents,” said Cook. “It’s a restroom, I get it, but it makes a huge difference and we have a lot of needs in that area.”
The district is also considering removing the “pods” at Grandview Middle School, and re-doing the east entrance at CAIR.
“This by no means does everything we need to do in the district; we still have a list of other things that need to happen,” said Cook. “That list will last probably my entire tenure with the district. These are some of the more critical areas that we have identified to improve the appearance and health and safety of the buildings.”
The roofs and parking lot make up a large bulk of the need: around $5 million.
“Knowing we have a $5 million need on our roofs and in our parking lots is what drove us to go after $9 million, so it would leave us some funding for additional things,” said Cook. “While they’re necessary and everyone will appreciate them, it’s not as much as we want to do.”
According to Cook, the district made a lot of improvements over the summer, and does have some money left. However, they remain fearful that if new bonds are not issued, it could make them potentially stagnant for 2014 projects.
“We need to start the planning and bidding for those summer projects, which we can’t do if we don’t have the bonding capacity,” said Cook.
This coming summer, the district has improvements already on the docket. Handicap accessibility at Martin City has been a concern for a number of years, and the district has made a commitment to remedy that. They are also considering a security vestibule at Conn-West, along with a lift in the stairwell of the main area leading up to the cafeteria.
Electrical upgrades are also needed at Conn-West and Transportation. Grandview Middle is in need of a locker solution; instrument and uniform storage is needed. The list of needs and wants is lengthy.
“If the bond is unsuccessful, we may limit some of these things so that we can be sure we have some funding in 2014,” said Cook. “We do have money left over, but we do have intended uses for that. We’re fine for this year, but our concern is moving forward and what our ability is to continue with improvements. We can remain with our current 80 cent levy, and it does not appear to negatively impact things that we may want to do down the road.”
Voters will ultimately decide on the issue April 2, 2013.