The Union R-XI School Board unanimously passed a measure Wednesday, Jan. 30, that will allow the district to move forward with placing an $8 million no-tax increase bond issue on the April 2013 ballot.
A no-tax increase bond provides a way for school districts to pay for capital projects that are too costly for a typical budget. If the bond issue is approved by voters, then the school district sells bonds at the lowest possible interest rate.
If the bond issues passes, the district plans to make major improvements at the three elementary schools, middle school, high school and the central office.
Essentially, a no-tax increase means the existing tax rate is extended, but not increased.
Superintendent Steve Bryant likened a no-tax bond to borrowing on the equity of a home. It saves money when the interest rates are good, but extends the length of the loan so payments stay the same.
“That’s essentially what we’re doing with a no-tax increase bond issue,” he said. “Our levy will stay the same, but we’re going to generate this $8 million to make the improvements on our facilities.”
The scope of work district officials said is needed includes roof repair or replacement, new windows, tuck pointing, waterproofing, and improving the district’s heating, ventilation and air- conditioning (HVAC) system.
Additionally, the district is looking at putting in a new district-wide communication infrastructure and safety features, and installing a new septic system at Beaufort Elementary. However, these costs weren’t included in the estimate.
The estimated cost of the project is around $6.4 million.
Last summer, the district spent about $768,000 to replace some of the rooftops at Beaufort and Clark Vitt elementary schools. They also replaced some windows to make the buildings more energy efficient. However, Bryant said there is not enough money in the district’s capital improvement fund to address all the needs of the district’s buildings.
Board members and school officials met with Joe Brazil, a senior field adviser with Tremco Roofing and Building Maintenance, whom the district brought in to provide an evaluation of the repairs still needed at six of the district’s campuses.
Some of the major problems are that many of the roofs either need replacement or repair, he said. In addition, brick walls are settling and splitting, concrete walkways are cracking and there are still some single-pane windows that need to be replaced to make the buildings more energy efficient.
“The walls (on some of the buildings) have a lot of chalk on them, which means there’s a lot of water going through them,” Brazil said. “There are patches everywhere on these roofs.”
Brazil said when the water from the rooftops leaks into the buildings, it saturates insulation and can cause problems with the inside air quality.
Petition the Court
Although district officials missed the Jan. 15 filing deadline, Bryant said they can still submit a petition to the Franklin County Court to get the bond issue on the ballot for the April 2 election.
Initially, the board was going to put the issue on the April 2014 ballot, but low interest rates combined with a dire need for improvements were the deciding factors that initiated the board to move forward and put it on the April 2013 ballot.
“We had been talking about this for some time,” Bryant said. “As this came together and I made a call to our bonding company. We had a board meeting scheduled, but it was beyond the deadline (to get the issue on the ballot). We were already in the process, but when you start looking at the rates and other issues, it just looked like something we should approach.”
Bryant said state budget cuts in recent years had caused the district to tighten its purse strings, which meant there wasn’t a sufficient amount of money to make any major building improvements.
“I do want to give credit to our former maintenance supervisor Norm Schroeder,” he said. “Even with previous tight budgets he really helped keep all the buildings in working order.”