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ROCSD board picks a price

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Estimate for renovations $29.16 million

By Nick Johansen

The Red Oak School Board has taken action to draft petition language for proposed facility renovations. 

After a lengthy discussion regarding several options, the board voted to proceed with a bonding plan aimed at $29.16 million, with a vote planned for later this year.

With conversations during a board work session regarding the project costs, and questions about keeping Washington Intermediate open as a pre-K through first grade campus in an effort to reduce the cost of the bond issue, Boyd Jones representative George Schuler presented four facility options for the board to consider as potential projects moving forward.  At last week’s meeting, Schuler said all the options presented were in conjunction with the baseline project, so none of the baseline options such as fire sprinklers, doors and hardware, and new furniture were affected. 

Options

The first option took the baseline project as-is, and removed the locker room option from Inman Primary to offset the costs of replacing the tech center roof, and included demolition of the middle school. 

“Demolition of Webster is outside of the project. Bancroft stays in use, and Washington Intermediate is sold,” Schuler said. 

The cost of the project would increase the facility budget to $34,900,000.

 

Option Two

The second option was a three-campus system. No work would be done at Inman Primary. Costs were added in for the replacement of the tech center roof, and a four classroom addition was added to the high school, as were demolition costs for the middle school. Webster’s demolition remained outside of the scope of the project. Bancroft and Washington remained in use, with no improvements. 

Cost for the project were $27,100,000.

 

Option Three

The third project was similar to the second option. Washington remained in use with no improvements. The roof replacement was included at Inman Primary, as well as fire sprinklers, a music room addition, and a four classroom addition. The roof replacement remained for the tech center, no demolition of Webster, and Bancroft also remained in use. 

Cost for the third option was $29,160,000. 

 

Option Four

The fourth option, Schuler said, was formed from a lot of critical thinking to get a two-campus scenario, while finding a more streamlined plan that would include the tech center roof replacement, and demolition at the middle school. The kitchen and cafeteria were moved, allowing for their space to be repurposed in the plan. Also, the scope of the flooring was changed to tile, at a reduced cost. Bancroft remained open, Webster’s demolition was outside of the project scope, and Washington would be sold. All the proposed changes at Inman remained the same. 

The fourth option cost was $33,985,000. 

 

Discussion

Superintendent Tom Messinger outlined what a $26-28 million project would do to the property tax rate, with the assumption that the income surtax was at a rate of 7 percent. 

“A 26 million project would take the school levy rate to $15.50 (Per $1,000 valuation). A $28 million project would take the rate to about $15.80. With a $34 million project, it would take the school levy rate to roughly $17.45,” Messinger said. 

If the income surtax was raised to 14 percent, it would reduce the property tax rate to under $17. 

Board President Paul Griffen said he felt the board had addressed the concerns on making sure the project was under $34 million, and discussed at length what the benefits were. 

“We’ve addressed the concerns from an academic standpoint, athletic standpoint, and a programming standpoint. I would like to see something on the table for the revised $34 million project to share with our constituency,” Griffen said. “It’s the one that’s been talked about, and it provides the most benefit to our general fund, which we are challenged in every year. It makes sure we can give the right programs for students, and make sure they’re getting the right teachers and academic environment. I think it’s important we protect and augment that.” 

Board member Mark Johnson said he was looking at the projects from the standpoint of which would give them the best opportunity to pass a vote. 

“In my opinion, I think the $26-$28 million dollar project, with three campuses, gives us our best chance to gain public support, over the $34 million project. The high school desperately needs to be renovated to address our middle school situation. If we go to three campuses, all of our students will be in good buildings, and it gives us a big step forward. I’m not going to try and guess what our financial situation is in five years,” Mark Johnson said. 

Griffen felt leaving three buildings in play didn’t allow them to take care of academics across all levels, and left money on the table that could be used for academics. 

“We need to make sure we’re hitting on all cylinders in the academic portion of it, and make sure all of our programming is in place. They will have a choice, as districts change. I’d like to see Red Oak be the choice, because we have the programs we want to see. I believe if we don’t take the step now, we won’t see the programming, and no longer be a district of choice,” commented Griffen. 

 

Moving students?

Questions were raised as to whether students could be moved to Washington with no changes. Inman Principal Gayle Allensworth advised the building could likely remain untouched, though changes would need to be made to fences and the playground for the younger students. In a three-campus scenario, the sixth grade students would likely be moved to Inman. 

Mark Johnson said he had fears of borrowing to the district’s maximum bonding capacity for the project, should the district need further funding for future projects. Board member Bret Blackman said based on the details of the levy rate, two-campuses was likely too costly. The three highest tax rates in comparable districts were roughly $16.50, in Creston, and Villisca. 

“We have a workable two-campus scenario, but we have a hang-up with the $17.45 tax levy rate. As we dig through the details and see what our peers are doing, at that high of a rate, I think it’s unrealistic for us to expect. As much as I love the fourth option, I think the levy rate is too high for us to pass,” Blackman said. 

Inman and steering committee member Roger Carlson both addressed the board, and said the board could not afford to wait any longer, and needed to make a choice. 

“We need to come up with a vision, and a decision. Even if you disagree, the will of the group has been heard and we’re moving forward,” Carlson said. 

Griffen said he would support whatever decision the board chose, and move forward. 

The unanimously approved to work with legal counsel draft petition language that reflects total expenditures of $29,160,000 for work to be done at the Red Oak School District.  

 

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