Board to seek funds for school repairs

Published 5:00 pm Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Brookhaven School District leaders Tuesday approved a resolution of intent to borrow up to $5 million to address a variety of facilities needs at schools across the district.

     Plans call for no more than $4.5 million to be used, but bond attorney Jim Young said the additional $500,000 could allow the school board to adjust plans as the project moves forward.

     “We’re going to have some flexibility to go up to $5 million if they need to,” said Young following the unanimous board vote to adopt the resolution.

     Flexibility was a word used several times during the board discussion over how and when the money will be used.

     With the resolution approved, 20 percent of voters in the Brookhaven School District could petition the board by Jan. 22 to hold an election on the issuance of notes.

     According to circuit clerk’s office totals, a petition would need a little more than 2,700 voters’ signatures to prompt an election. If there is no petition for an election, which seldom occur, the project will move forward as envisioned.

     Young did not anticipate taxes going up as a result of the note issuance. He indicated a three-mill tax levy for the notes would be offset by a shortfall note tax levy coming off and use of part of the money to pay off a current note.

     “The net effect should be no overall tax increase to the voters,” Young said.

     Board attorney Bob Allen said the funds from a note issuance can be used for things such as buildings, buses, heating and cooling needs, land acquisition and other needs. He encouraged the board to identify plans for the money.

     “That’s the first thing the general public will want to know is where you’re going to spend the money,” Allen said.

     Allen and Young said the board could maintain flexibility in spending plans.

     “I think you want to have some idea where you’re going,” Allen said.

     Superintendent Dr. Lisa Karmacharya referenced an Immediate Facility Needs report the board discussed during its November meeting.

     In the report, the top priority identified was getting schools in compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act. The estimated cost for those improvements was $567,630.00.

     The second priority in the report highlighted HVAC, roof replacement, electrical upgrades and acoustical ceilings. Karmacharya specifically mentioned roof needs at Mamie Martin Elementary and Alexander Junior High School.

     Estimated costs of those improvements were placed at around $2.3 million.

     School officials said Tuesday night that overall estimated cost of addressing all needs in the report was $28 million.

     Young encouraged the board to identify before Jan. 22 a “general framework” for addressing priority needs. He said the board would have flexibility in determining when to access funds and in how it chooses to proceed with the project.

     “You don’t want to be locked into stone on what you’re going to do,” Young said.

     Young estimated the interest on the notes would be 3.25 percent.

      “That is an extremely low rate to borrow for 15 years,” Young said.

     Karmacharya pointed out the board followed the note issuance avenue in 2008 to address district needs during that time.

     “This is not an unusual request to do so,” Karmacharya said.

     Prior to Tuesday night’s formal meeting, board members held a work session to begin addressing goals and other requirements under new accountability standards taking effect in the near future. Much of the session discussion focused on goal-setting.

     “The district board is supposed to set district goals, along with the superintendent,” Karmacharya said.

     The superintendent said the goals need to be specific, measurable, attainable and time specific.

     “We’ll focus on the end results and not the process,” she said.

     Following an involved and complex discussion, board members tentatively settled on goals of student achievement, safe schools for students, staff and faculty, fiscal responsibility and community engagement. Karmarchaya said she will be responsible for identifying strategies for achieving the stated goals.

     Board members planned to discuss district goals and how to measure success in meeting them during future work sessions.