The Meramec Valley R-III School Board is debating what to do with leftover funds from its 2010 Prop M bond issue.

The discussion at last Wednesday’s board meeting stemmed from a proposal to move an unused amount of $200,000, originally designated to repair the elevator at the district’s community school, and redesignate it as funding for the new early childhood center.

Superintendent Dr. John Mulford proposed that since the building will soon be vacated, to take those funds and use them for the new early learning center playground, surfacing and the purchase of new classroom and office furniture for the facility.

In total, the 6,000-square-foot playground and its surfacing will cost roughly $75,000, with the rest of the $200,000 going toward furnishing the building.

Mulford said it would be best to purchase new furnishings, rather than bringing the current building’s furniture over to the new building.

“We all have agreed that’s something we want to see there,” he said.

Using Taxpayer Money

However, some school board members were worried about using the funds for things they weren’t intended for when voters approved Prop M in 2010.

“I have had concerns brought to me that until we decide what we’re going to do with that building that we may not want to redesignate that money and that is a valid concern,” Mulford said.

Currently, the district is having the community school building appraised, as well as the current building that houses the early childhood program.

School board member Tim Richardson said he worries that if the funds are reallocated and it’s later decided those buildings need work, the funds will be gone.

“My concern is that we haven’t completely decided what we’re going to do with that building,” he said. “We’ve talked about a couple of different options, but we may end up repurposing it. I think it would be appropriate to use that bond money on that building.”

Richardson said when the district needs a bond issue passed in the future, it won’t be able to say the funds were spent on the things promised.

“It would just be easier to go back the next time and be able to tell them we used the money that we asked for, for what we asked for,” he said.

Original Designations

When originally passed, the funds from the $1.1 million bond issue were designated to be used throughout the district.

Roughly $700,000 would go toward turf at the high school; $200,000 for the elevator at the community school; $100,000 toward concession stands; and a small amount of miscellaneous construction fees.

As of now, no turf has been set at the high school and roughly $65,000 has gone toward renovating the concession stands at the high school. The community center may not need the funds for the elevator, as the district has shown interest in selling the property.

The projects at the new early childhood education center could be paid for out of the general fund balance as well, Board President Matt Trower noted.

Richardson said he feels the board needs to act soon on the bond amount because, while the money doesn’t “expire” per se, the district owes it to voters to use the money.

“I think it’s something we need to do as soon as we get the appraisal on the buildings back,” he said. “It’s been sitting there way too long.”

Mulford agreed and said it would be good stewardship to begin to actively designate that money to projects.

“We probably in the next month or two need to have a workshop where we decide what projects are going to be done with those 2010 funds,” Mulford said.

Time to Act

The board agreed to schedule a workshop in October to discuss what should be done with the remaining funds.

The appraisals for the early childhood center and the community center will come in next month, giving the district a better idea of how to move forward, Mulford said.

The superintendent added that the new childhood education center will not open until January, giving the district some time to come to a solution.

For the time being, Mulford said the board should be thinking of proper usage of the 2010 bond money.

Total construction cost of the early childhood center was estimated at $4,363,600, which includes a base bid and three alternates. The project is being funded with a $11.7 million no-tax-increase bond issue that voters approved in April 2017.

Students from the district’s three preschool programs will attend classes in the new school building beginning in August 2018.

The board also voted last week to accept a grant from the Missouri Department of Natural Resources in the amount of $30,000 for the center at the same meeting.