The Chillicothe R-2 Board of Education discussed future building construction plans at their special open public meeting held on Tuesday night (Feb. 12).
"I think we need to begin these talks,"said R-2 Superintendent Dr. Roger Barnes. "[In 2015-16,] we might be able to do a no-tax bond issue for another building."
After the district's most recent bond refinancing, it was determined that if R-2 could "maintain [their] debt service levy, [they] might be able to come about with another building," Barnes explained earlier in the week.
"Those bonds are for 20 years," he said, which means that the current rate on the bonds will remain the same through the year 2026.
"We're going to pay that," he said.
Barnes told the board that there were several items that they would need to discuss prior to actually making any decisions regarding the fact, including: whether they should build new facilities and/or renovate existing ones, where they should build, how much a new building would cost, student transportation issues, timing issues, what concerns might arise from the community, and the possibility of the aforementioned 2015-16 no-tax bond issue.
A slideshow presentation was shown to the board by Barnes, explaining first the financial side of things, and then the possible ideas he had for new building construction.
Per Barnes, the current Chillicothe R-2 TIF (tax increment financing) numbers for the Stoneybrooke Development along the eastern side of Old Hwy. 36 come to $2,131,540 in assessed valuation. The Comfort Inn and Suites in that area pays no taxes towards said TIF, which expires in 2027.
Since fiscal year 2008, Barnes showed, R-2's assessed valuation had gone from $127,252,570 to $128,544873 in FY2009 (+1.02 percent growth), to $128,238,598 in FY2010 (-0.24 percent growth), to 128,996,003 in FY2011 (+0.59 percent growth), to $134,229,220 in FY2012 (+4.06 percent growth), to $136,190,288 in FY2013 (+1.46 percent growth).
The new refinance is based upon a one percent assessed valuation growth.
One important aspect to keep in mind is that total indebtedness for any school district is limited to 15 percent of their total assessed valuation, including the portion of the total valuation of state-assessed utilities located within the district.
Chillicothe R-2's current assessed valuation, as Barnes pointed out prior, is $136,190,288. Fifteen percent of that total is $20,428,543. Current debt service due comes to $7,813,200, leaving the district with $12,615,343 in remaining available bonding capacity. Barnes noted in the slideshow, however, that more debt service levy would be required to cover the remaining bond capacity if this were the final number worked with -- roughly raising such to between $0.85 and $0.90, from the current $0.54.
It was noted that bond elections which occur on the first Tuesday after the first Monday in February, June, August, and November in odd years require a higher percent of positive votes than those elections held on general election day, primary election day, or municipal election day (66 2/3 percent vs. 57 percent). General elections take place in November during even-numbered years. Primary elections take place in August of even-numbered years. Municipal elections take place every April.
It was suggested by Barnes that the board's best bet to get a bond issue to pass would be during one of the 57 percent cycles, as those have a higher recorded success rate.
A few planning tips were included regarding bond issues, including establishing an advisory committee, reviewing current facilities, determining needs and priorities, and establishing a budget and timetable.
The plan of action suggested went as follows: establish advisory committee of board members, parents, administrators, and citizens and hold meetings; determine facility needs; determine whether construction or remodeling were the way to go; develop a timetable for said events; inform the public of the activities of the district, and keep them informed; select an architect to put together drawings; develop and display architectural drawings; keep target and goal in front of public; and hold bond elections.
"[The advisory board] needs to be very much community-driven," Barnes said. "From my previous experiences from my previous district, that went over very well. We need to keep the public as informed as possible."
"I think anyone who wants to be involved should be," added Board member Brent Turner.
Barnes said that he currently has between 40 and 50 names of parents and citizens submitted by the different building administrators within R-2, who the district believe would be interested in participating in the advisory committee regarding a new facility plan. He said that anyone else wanting to participate in the the committee should contact him at the district office (660-646-4566). Each person showing interest or included within the administrators' list will receive a letter inviting him or her to the upcoming board advisory committee meetings.
Several plans were suggested at the Tuesday night meeting, from Barnes to the board. None of these are binding, he noted, and said that any ideas were welcome.
One of the main themes included in the plans presented Tuesday was the closures of both the Garrison Preschool and Central Accelerated School.
"The two buildings that need to close are Garrison and Central," Barnes said.
It was noted that Garrison is very "crowded" and outdated.
"Garrison has outlived its use. It's too tight," said Barnes. "In my opinion, those kids deserve more."
R-2 Assistant Superintendent Jim Ruse commented that the district "[spends] most of our [maintenance] time at Central."
"That just happens," Barnes said. "Buildings age."
Per administrators at Garrison School, the current building was constructed in the 1950s as an all-black school prior to becoming a preschool.
The first of the plans introduced included the building of a new fifth through eighth grade Middle School. Under this plan, grades two through four would move to the current Middle School, and Garrison preschoolers, CACE students, and the Behavior Management Program would all move to Field School. Dewey students would stay at Dewey. Garrison and Central schools would be closed, instead becoming district storage space.
The second plan also included the building of a new fifth through eighth grade Middle School, as well as a new preschool at the old HS site. The new preschool would be an ECSE, Title, and MPP site. As in the prior plan, grades two through four would move to the current Middle School, and the BMP and CACE would move to Field. Garrison and Central would become closed storage space.
The third option was the building of a new elementary school for grades two through five. In this plan, the preschool, BMP, and CACE would all move to Field; Dewey School students would remain at Dewey; Middle School students would remain at CMS; and both Garrison and Central would close.
The fourth option consisted of the building of a new preschool through second grade elementary school facility. Dewey School would, instead, house fifth grade students, along with BMP and CACE. Students in grades three and four would class at Field school. There would be no change at CMS. Garrison and Central would close.
An intriguing fifth option included the building of a new vocational school. Barnes noted that via this plan, it could be possible for R-2 to get the state to pay for half of the new vo-tech building, while taxpayers pay for the other half. This would require legislative help, and would allow the district to use the remaining funding from the bond issue to remodel the current Grand River Technical School into an elementary school with extra space near the old football stadium and track for a park and excess parking space.
Said funding from the state (which was last available in 2010) is not currently an open option, per Barnes. However, he has spoken with area legislators about this possibility. The Litton Agriculture Education Center was built with a similar funding model, it was noted.
An example — the Monett R-1 Scott Regional Technology Center (which is larger than the current Grand River Technical School), which was built in 2007 with one-half state funding, and for a total cost of $7,652,338 — was presented as a model for the board.
"Our program offerings have been limited by the size or our building," said Board President David Meneely, in regards to GRTS.
It was noted that the new vo-tech building would be located on the district's open ground out near the current Chillicothe High School building, thus eliminating the transportation timing issues currently experienced while busing students between the two locations.
"The public does not realize that the amount [of money] spent on students in this district is so high because it is being wasted on transportation inefficiencies," said Meneely.
"It would cut down on the transportation we have between the two buildings," Barnes said. Several members of the board agreed.
Grades four and five would move to the remodeled GRTS as a part of this plan. A new preschool would also be built on the old high school site (including ECSE, Title, and MPP). Garrison and Central would close.
If the district were able to move grades three through five to the GRTS, however, it was stated that things would change even more, per this plan. A new sixth through eighth grade Middle School would result in Kindergarten through second grade moving to the current Middle School, BMP and CACE moving to Field, and the preschool moving to the old High School site at CMS. Garrison and Central, still, would close.
The final plan included the building of a new central office building, which would also house the preschool programs. This is similar to a plan of action pursued by the Smithville school district.
Another problem in past plans — age range grouping — was discussed by the board. In the past, parents had voiced concern over placing younger students at the same location as older ones when it came to building new facilities, or remodeling or adding on to current ones. They stated their approval of Barnes' work regarding that detail.
In closing, Barnes provided a rough facility building cost map. It was noted that grades five through eight within the R-2 district host 650 students. For students that age, it is estimated that each would require between approximately 135 and 150 square feet each. That calculates out to between 87,750 and 97,500 square feet of space required. Construction costs are estimated at between $130 and $150 per square foot. Thirty-five classrooms would need to be constructed (regular plus special education plus Title). This includes one gymnasium, two locker rooms, one weight room, one multipurpose room, one computer lab, one library, one computer literacy room, hallways and lockers space, office areas, nurse stations, a kitchen, a cafeteria, one industrial arts room, one FACS room, two music rooms, and one art room.
The final cost of the project's construction? Between $11.4 million and $14.6 million.
"It becomes two or three locations to keep up with, as opposed to five or six, now," said Barnes. "I'm ready to go on the committee part if you are."
"These are better plans [than the ones we've had in the past]," said Board member Michael Leamer.
The board agreed to proceed. No formal vote was taken.