A draft building plan that includes a possible 15-cent increase bond issue for a new elementary school was presented to the R-80 school board for consideration Thursday night.
If approved at the February meeting, the bond issue would go the district voters in April 2021.
The R-80 Facilities Planning committee met for the fourth time last week. A large turnout expressed strong support for making replacing William Lynch Elementary the district’s top capital projects priority, Superintendent John McColloch said.
“I was initially thinking four or five years down the road here, but the committee seemed to say overwhelmingly, ‘Let’s push this thing forward as much we can,’” he told the school board Thursday.
With the deadline for this April’s election Jan. 28 and too little time to prepare, he recommended the following April as the next date for an election requiring a four/sevenths majority to pass a bond issue.
The district’s debt service levy currently stands at 45 cents. The debt service fund balance has been growing since the 2013 bond issue was refinanced in 2016, saving an estimated $500,000 in future interest payments. “The levy is generating more revenue but the cost each year to pay the bonds is going down,” McColloch said.
According to bonding firm LJ Hart, a 15-to-20-cent increase in the tax levy would be enough to fund a new school—or the board could wait until 2023 and propose a no-tax-increase bond issue that would mature in 2043 instead of the current 2033.
“It felt like, from the meeting the other night, that the committee was pushing to go ahead and do something earlier than 2023 so that’s why it’s in the draft plan right now,” McColloch told the board.
Second on the committee’s priority list was a new indoor practice facility. Originally estimated to cost about $750,000, Athletic Advisory committee member Nick Gover told the board it would be closer to $1.5 to $1.6 million based on rough figures from various firms he has contacted.
Gover and others researched a facility in Arkansas with a 40-yard turf field, office and meeting space for coaches, weight room, fitness center, recreation room and locker rooms that cost over $8 million, paid for with community and business donations to the athletic department. Gover said R-80 could possibly build a smaller, less expensive version.
In the draft plan, McColloch suggested financing the $1.5 million cost over a period of years with the capital projects money in Fund 4, transfers from the Classroom Trust Fund and a 3 to 5 percent transfer of Weighted Average Daily Attendance state aid funds.
The same strategy would also be used to fund an estimated $262,000 for electrical and HVAC upgrades over a three-year period, plus a new SHS gym floor. McKinstry, a facility consulting firm, recommended the upgrades after studying the district’s needs last February.
The work includes a new electrical switchboard and electrical panels in the Vo-Ag building, another panel in SHS Building A and four at the middle school, plus several rooftop HVAC units at the high school.
McColloch asked the board to look over the draft plan for consideration at the next meeting in February. “We’re a long way from asking to agree to any of this,” he said. “It’s just preliminary information at this time.”
Also Thursday night, McColloch presented a budget update that showed the district is about $294,000 behind last year in revenue, but about $300,000 in federal program revenue has yet to come in. Although average daily attendance is down due to fewer students, the amount of state aid per student has increased, offsetting the difference, he said.
Expenditures are up about $221,000, largely due to two unexpected health insurance assessments from the South Central Education Consortium insurance pool totaling over $508,000. “Take that out of the equation and we’re actually running about $260,000 better than this time last year,” McColloch said. Another assessment may be coming this spring.
“It’s kind of good news, bad news,” he told the board. “If it wasn’t for the insurance assessment, we’d be sitting really pretty right now.”
He said the assessments will have a negative impact on some capital projects this year, delaying them until the insurance situation, caused by a poor claim history, improves.
McColloch also reported that LED lighting installation is scheduled to begin March 17 in all buildings except William Lynch and take three weeks. The contractor is doing the project in conjunction with a similar project at Oak Hill R-I at the same time. The R-80 work will be done at night and other times when school is not in session.
At the track, two more throwing areas are being added for the shot put, reducing down time during practice and at track meets. Last season there were 28 throwers in grades 7-12, he said. The project is being funded out of the athletic equipment and supplies budget.
He also reported that tax credits have been approved for the new Construction Trades building being funded by a $500,000 federal grant, adding $438,000 to the project.
In other business, the board approved motion to accept the resignation of John Brewer, elementary art and intervention, effective at the end of the 2019-2020 school year.
In closed session, the board discussed McColloch’s evaluation and approved extending his contract through the 2022-23 school year.
The board also approved the hiring of Patrick Prawitz, high school math, and Mark Howard, high school social studies.