News Column

Folks: Bonds 'most financially efficient' option

May 30, 2014

By Ned Valentine, Clay Center Dispatch, Kan.

May 30--If all projects being considered in USD-379's bond issue are approved by voters, the impact on property taxes would be minimal, according to USD-379 Superintendent Mike Folks.

Speaking before the Chamber's regular weekly forum Wednesday, Folks said the court-ordered restoration of state "equalization" funds next year would mean a 1-2 mill net increase to cover the overall project if approved by voters.

The plan under consideration calls for $5.3 million for needed improvements to district facilities and another $2.8 million to upgrade sports facilities.

Folks said if the bond issue isn't approved, the board has the authority to increase the capital outlay levy up to eight mills to do the necessary upgrades, something that could cause a four mill net increase in property taxes.

He said approving the bond issue would be the most financially efficient alternative.

Lowering mill levy an option

If building a new stadium at the high school is removed from the plan, the district would actually be able to reduce the current mill levy, Folks said, adding that maintenance and liability costs of current facilities would still need to be addressed.

Folks said the district is in good financial condition to take on the debt. The current local district property tax levy of 44.8 mills is 10 mills below the state average of 54.5 mills for districts this size and the board has held the district's levy increase to 1.7 mills total over the past nine years.

Folks said the district maintenance projects listed on the bond issue are necessary and that now is the time to issue bonds due to low interest rates. Rising property values have kept levy rates down in most local governments units.

No final, formal program has been decided upon yet. The board of education will discuss the issues during their regular meetings in July and August and a resolution must be made by mid-September to be put the issue on the November general election ballot.

Ground being sought for softball fields

Folks also said that while purchasing an adjacent 15 acres from the Neighborhood Renaissance Foundation, Topeka, has been rejected because the $15,000 to $16,000 per acre asking price was entirely "out of line," talks continue between school officials and Renaissance.

Folks said school district officials still need input from citizens. he called for a group of volunteers to organize and help the district promote the bond proposal.

Saferoom, repairs at the top of the list

The bond issue would be used to fund a safe room at Clay Center Community Middle School and to finance a variety of repair projects including roof replacement at several facilities, projects to increase energy efficiency including modern lighting systems, window and door treatments, tile repair at Wakefield and CCCHS.

Plans also call for replacement of 1250 seats in the Martyn-Snodgrass auditorium at CCCHS, and electrical system repairs to meet updated fire codes.

The bond issue would also raise enough for early payment of current debt now being paid off at 3.5 percent interest. Five years remain on that bond issue.

The storm saferoom at CCCMS would be built on the north corner of the building. The 2,000 square foot all concrete structure would be above ground and designed to withstand an F5 tornado, or winds of 250-300 mph.

The facility would include a couple of bathrooms and will be put to some use during the school day for music, lockers or wrestling, Folks said. No decision has been made on the use yet.

Athletic upgrades being considered

The plan also calls for replacement of the 18-year-old track at CCCHS, the CCCHS gym floor and construction of a new complex including a softball field and new football field on the CCCHS campus grounds.

Folks said he understands the nostalgia connected with the depression-era Unruh stadium but said repairing the facility would be expensive and liability issues connected with having a facility away from the high school would continue.

Complete refurbishing of Unruh Stadium, including installation of artificial turf, would be $1.3 million, Folks said. Construction of a new stadium on the high school grounds including stadium, turf, parking lot and rest room and concessions is estimated to be $1.7 million.

He said turf would be no more expensive over ten years than continuing the $45,000 annual cost of keeping two grass fields watered, seeded, fertilized and maintained.

While the total sports upgrades under consideration is $2.8 million, the board is looking at other options including purchasing land north of the track, other options to improve Unruh stadium, and a potential track at Wakefield.


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Source: Clay Center Dispatch (KS)

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