Brookhaven school board calls for $8M bond issue vote
As the Brookhaven School District’s $5.3 million general obligation bond note rolls off, the Board of Trustees hopes to replace it with another to the tune of $8 million to be used for security improvements and facility upgrades.
Board members Tuesday voted 4-0 — Erin Smith was absent — to call for a vote on the bond proposal May 7. The proposal will require support by at least 60 percent of the voters to be approved.
Director of Finance Cheryl Shelby said the district will finish paying its current GO bond of $5,345,000 in March.
“The bond, if passed, will not require a tax increase for members of the community and will allow for much needed safety and security upgrades at all schools,” Superintendent Ray Carlock said in a written statement provided at the meeting. “In light of the uncertainty in the world today, as seen in recent violent acts in schools across the country, we must show our community that we are committed to ensuring the safety of our students and faculty in the Brookhaven School District at all times.”
Carlock wrote that approval of the bond issue will also allow schools to be equipped with more efficient and economical heating and cooling systems.
“Brookhaven students deserve a safe and comfortable environment in which to learn,” wrote Deputy Superintendent Rod Henderson, who was also present at the meeting at the district office. “Our students are always our priority, and we know that our community feels the same. The Brookhaven School District has always been able to depend upon a strong backing from the residents of Brookhaven, and we are counting on them to support this bond issue to help us create more secure and up-to-date facilities for our students, faculty, staff and entire community.”
Bond attorney Jim Young explained the process to the board Tuesday, adding there will be public hearings and public notices published “letting people know where to vote, making sure everybody understands how the money will be used and we don’t anticipate a tax increase.”
Board President Willie “Doc” Harrison asked if Young was sure about that.
“There’s no way for this bond later on down the road to cause taxes to increase,” he asked.
Young was hesitant to give an absolute answer.
“I can’t say never, never,” he said. “If your tax base got cut in half? I can never say never. But if your tax base remains where it is now, the value of your tax base remains where it is now, it will not cause the mills to go up.”
Millage is determined by how much money the school district requests annually, said Brookhaven City Clerk Samantha Melancon. The district requests money for maintenance, vocational, capital expenditures and debt service and the city sets millage based on the amount they’ll need to fill the order. That is billed to taxpayers in the form of ad valorem school taxes.
If the school district doesn’t require as much to cover debt services, it’s likely that taxes could decrease. If the debt service continues at a similar rate, and other factors remain the same, taxes won’t likely increase, she said.
“The notion here is as the old one is paying off you just come on with the new one to take care of the current needs without raising the mills on taxpayers. That’s what a lot of districts have been doing successfully,” Young said.
Before the current GO bond was issued in 2006, the district paid a $7.3 million GO bond that was issued in 2000, according to newspaper archives.
Young said the district’s new GO bond can’t be over $8 million but it can be less.
“Looking at some numbers we think that $8 million is right around the level we can borrow without raising the mills,” Young said.
The GO bond would be for a maximum of 20 years, he said.
The resolution to call for a vote also included a list of needs in the district. Carlock said he talked with principals, faculty and the trustees to construct the list and he also plans to host community meetings to gather its input.
Carlock gave a rough estimate of $500,000 that would be spent to upgrade security in the district. He said the district must do a better job protecting students and staff.
“Foyers on the buildings, you can walk in, you can go right on down the hall,” he said. “We can watch the best we can but we’re really not set up to stop anybody.”
The new security measures will create a holding area that requires permission to get past the principals’ offices.
“They’ll hit a button and doors will unlock and you can go through,” Carlock said.
There will be external door sensors and more cameras installed. Every door of every school will be wired electronically to be locked remotely.
“If there’s something going on and we have to quickly shut down the place, they’ll have a button in there and ‘Boom’ you can lock every door and then they can figure out what’s going on. That’s truly what a lock down is.”
Carlock said an audit is underway to get specifications of every door so bids can be taken for the system.
The upgraded security is the top priority in the district, he said.
“That is going to be expensive but at the same time we’ve got to do it,” he said. “It is the most important thing that we’ll ever do.”
Another big concern is classroom space.
“We’ve got to have classrooms at BES. We’ve got to have classrooms at Lipsey,” Carlock told the board Tuesday. “We need them desperately.”
The proposal calls for four classrooms to be added at Brookhaven Elementary and four to five more at Lipsey Middle School.
Lipsey Principal Rita Robinson said after the meeting that enrollment has increased in the younger grades and she has run out of room for fifth- and sixth-graders.
“We have absolutely no more space,” she said. “Every classroom that we have at Lipsey is being utilized.”
Though the state allows no more than a 30-1 ratio in a classroom, Robinson likes to keep it under 30 if possible.
“We’re just out of room plain and simple,” she said.
Students in the Quest gifted class already meet in a mobile classroom and she fears that’s the route she’ll have to take with other classes without additional classrooms built.
“When he (Carlock) says it’s a desperate need, it is,” she said.
Steve Cox of Cox Architecture in McComb has been working with Carlock to create the list.
“A lot of this is vague, but it’s just a start. It helps to identify where the work is going to be,” he told the board.
The following is the list presented to the Board of Trustees Tuesday. Carlock’s wish list includes renovations of all district bathrooms and new playground equipment, but those were not included.
System-wide security enhancements:
• Perimeter security
• Campus access points
• Surveillance systems
• Classroom addition — four classrooms, maintenance/security space and bathrooms with connector walk
• Cafeteria/kitchen — remodel to provide for another serving line with same or enlarged cafeteria dining space
• New air handlers
• Auditorium roof repair with stage repair
Mamie Martin Elementary
• Replace main chiller
• Replace small chiller — front classroom (or split system units)
• Parking lot — pave existing lot behind school
• Rework window covers on Building D
• Replace covered walkway to main entrance
• Enclose walkway to cafeteria
• Classroom addition — four to five classrooms
• New classroom air handlers
• Security barrier at location of chillers and trailer (on northeast corner of campus)
• Security barrier at front of courtyard
Alexander Junior High
• Replace auditorium chiller
• New air handlers
• Parking lot — pave existing area across from main entrance
• Expand field house — lockers, coaches’ office and toilets
• Covered walkway for bus pickup
Fannie Mullins Alternative
• Pave parking lot in front of building (west side)
• Provide cover at technology building loading dock
• Science building — replace chiller/boiler
• Reroof science building, band building and auditorium
• Renovate band hall
• Add new building on practice field at north side of East Congress Street to replace existing band practice trailers
• East-side covered walkway and cafeteria courtyard awning
• King Field — new bathrooms under bleachers
• New covered walk from technical center to high school with King Field entry
• Demolition of abandoned buildings around campus
Brookhaven Technical Center
• New covered walk to high school
• New 60-foot-by-100-foot warehouse to use as a storage facility for copy paper, custodial cleaning supplies and district school supplies (controlled environment is required for some of these materials, but not all)
• Demolition of existing facility for parking
• Shop fans
• (Once existing maintenance warehouse is replaced, the current building will be demolished and used for parking)
General system-wide projects and needs:
• Lighting upgrades
• General electrical upgrades
• Plumbing upgrades — reduce water usage in toilet fixtures
• Door maintenance and repairs
• Property demolition — three buildings on East Congress Street and one on North Second Street