Butler County Times Gazette
  • BOE looks at alternative to long-range plan

  • The USD 490 long-range facility plan won’t proceed as expected.
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  • The USD 490 long-range facility plan won’t proceed as expected.
    The project from Phase I are on schedule and within budget. But Phase II would require another bond issue to pass similar to the first. The need to replace some school buildings that are about 60 years old still exists, but the district’s ability to issue debt doesn’t.
    Superintendent Sue Givens said the financing potential does not exist to complete two more elementary schools. She said district property evaluations only rose slightly rather than the projected $2.5 million increase.
    “It is not feasible for us to stay on this schedule and do a bond issue in the spring,” Givens said.
    She said it will be between eight and 10 years before the district has the ability to borrow that much money again.
    “We need to be careful not to have debt above 35 percent of our budget,” said Norm Wilks, director of fiscal services. “Right now, we are at 34 percent. Without significant growth in the district, it won’t be realistic to look at that much more in debt.”
    But Givens said that didn’t mean the district was giving up on the plan.
    “We are still committed to the long-range plan,” she said. “The stakeholders still want us to go that direction.”
    Because of that the school board voted to pursue a performance contract financing option with Schnieder Electric. The company will put together an estimate to see if the money saved on utilities and other costs from shutting down one building and modernizing another would yield enough money to pay for six new classrooms and a new gymnasium at Jefferson Elementary School.
    Givens said with the savings from those changes and some money from the capital outlay fund, the district may be able to pay for improvements in 10 years without a bond issue.
    The board will consider a contract at the October meeting.
    The board also discussed the work being completed as part of Phase I of the long-range plan that is funded by the bond issue.
    The district expects to open the new middle school in January. The old middle school is the focus of several options for renovation and repurposing.
    The company that wanted to transform the site into apartments did not receive the tax credits needed to make the project work. They are trying again this year. The board voted to continue its agreement with the company and pursue another path if they do not receive the necessary approvals next spring.
    The board also asked for a proposal for a new building. The changes to the new middle school design added a gymnasium to the new site. But it took away a great deal of storage. A new building was requested to offer storage, concession and a restroom facility between the ballfields and tennis courts.
    Page 2 of 2 - Givens said the construction would be beneficial because buildings wouldn’t have to be opened up to allow users to have access to restrooms. The storage is important and adding a concession area would add to the usefulness of the area for the YMCA who contracts to use the fields.
    The final action taken by the board was to seek negotiations with Tom McKibben and Kevin Jacobs to purchase 28 acres of land for $7,200 per acre. The land is located east of 29th Street and north of Haslet Road.
    Board Member Cathy Cooper excused herself from these discussions, but the rest of the board voted unanimously to seek to purchase the land. A contract could be presented at the October meeting.
    Board Member Deb Wheeler asked Wilks if this was a good investment for the board.
    “The land would probably be worth more in eight to 10 years even if you didn’t decide to build on that site,” Wilks said. “The property would still be yours and be available to be resold.”
    “That is the direction El Dorado is growing,” Givens said. “It is a reasonable investment even if it never becomes the site of a new school.”
    Much of the action discussed Monday night will come back to the board for final decisions at the October board meeting.

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