School board takes look at bond issues
The Baldwin School Board in regular session Monday evening unanimously approved a plan to lease-purchase land for new facilities construction and discussed the district's facilities master plan. Community feedback on the master plan will be sought. Increases in school fees were also approved and bids will be sought on a mobile classroom unit.
Over several months, the board has been discussing the $500,000 purchase of 92 acres of land at the corner of Lawrence Street and U.S. Highway 56.
With a lease-purchase, the district would pay around $50,000 a year at a rate of approximately 5.5 to 6.5 percent which wouldn't stress the budget the way a single payment of $500,000 would.
"I recommend we purchase the land on a lease-purchase agreement over 10 years," said Supt. James White. "If we pass a bond issue to build a new elementary school, then we would pay the remaining balance on the lease-purchase from bond funds."
Bill Woodhouse, representing Frangkiser Hutchens architectural firm, presented the updated 15-year facilities plan. The new plan varies from the previous 10-year plan, which featured three bond issues for facilities construction, by adding a fourth bond issue.
"I now understand why many organizations don't do advanced planning like this. It scares the heck out of you," said Board President Ed Schulte.
"This is the best forecasting we can give you," said Woodhouse, based on 3.5 percent inflation per year.
The bond issues covered by the plan include one for next fall for $7.8 million to cover a new elementary facility, either Pre-K-2 or 3-5. Another bond issue of $4.6 million would fall in 2006 to cover an addition to Vinland elementary and a new Performing Arts Center for the high school. The third bond issue of $10.3 million in 2010 would cover a projected new middle school. The fourth bond issue of $8.3 million would cover a new elementary school.
As discussed at previous board meetings, the facilities plan is based on growth projections that assume current enrollment trends will continue upward. The master plan will be adjusted periodically to allow for future changes in enrollment and other needs.
Because the plan is so complex and needs explaining, the board believes it is appropriate to seek community input from patrons, businesses and organizations by holding an open meeting or by going to individual organizations and making presentations.
"We should start this process with our own staff," said Schulte, "so our own employees know what we're planning."
Any group Lions Club, Rotary, PTOs, Site Councils, Recreation Commission, Baker University, Maple Leaf Festival Committee, etc. that would like the board to explain the master plan, should contact White.
Woodhouse also presented projected costs for several other possible projects. One option for the wrestling space has been to erect a separate metal building. Another option is to create a mezzanine addition to the high school for wrestling and weight training for a cost of $150,000. This would entail adding columns to create a second floor over the existing wrestling space.
The cost for renovating the junior high auditorium would be $325,750. This would entail rebuilding the stage extension; replacing the ceiling, carpet, house lights, stage lighting, curtains, and seating; and upgrading electrical and heating and air-conditioning.
"You'd have a prime facility with this budget," said Woodhouse.
The board unanimously approved a motion for White to get bids on a two-classroom-unit mobile classroom for the junior high at approximately $40,000. White and Schulte both believe that buying the unit outright rather than leasing is the preferred option. The unit is to come with restrooms, although they won't be connected at the junior high location; that way the mobile unit can be used elsewhere in the district as needed.
Woodhouse suggested placing the temporary classrooms on the south side of the junior high, because of easy access to utilities. Future construction could be scheduled around the mobile unit, moving it only when additional classroom construction have been completed.
On a vote of 4-1, with Linda Rogers voting against, the board approved increases in food-service prices. This raises the price of breakfast from 70 cents to 75 cents for all students except kindergartners and from $1.20 to $1.25 for adults. The cost of extra milk or juice will rise from 20 cents to 25 cents.
Lunch price for grades 1-5 will go up five cents to $1.50; for grades 6-8, up 10 cents to $1.60; for grades 9-12, up 15 cents to $1.70; and for adults, up 15 cents to $2.35.
On a unanimous vote of the board, textbook fees were raised also. These fees cover texts, workbooks, newspapers, etc., required by the district and provided on a rental basis: Kindergarten, up $4 from $16 to $20; grades 1-8, up $1 from $29 to $30; and grades 9-12, up $1 from $39 to $40. The $25 fee for band instruments remains the same.
The board tabled discussion on raising the $20 activity user fee for sports. White wanted the board to consider the philosophy of the user fees.
"Should they offset the cost of having the programs?" he asked. "Are they for supplies and equipment or should they include the cost of coaches salaries and transportation?"
"Sports equipment must be refurbished every year by law," said board member Curtis Trarbach. "For football, that's $110 per uniform helmet and pads."
Gate fees are set by the league the district belongs to. At the high school level, such as for football, the gate fees pay for those expenses, but not for the coaches' salaries.
Board member Lonnie Broers asked White to provide an estimate of what each sport costs so the board could better determine what the fees should be for each sport.
"Our purpose is not to pull funds out of education for sports or other activities," said Schulte.
"Research shows that students involved in activities are more successful in life and school, and oftentimes involvement with the activity is what keeps them in school," said White. "Maybe we should spend more money on activities to involve more students."
"We want to see a balance between music and fine arts, sports, and academics," said Schulte. "Increasingly, it is difficult to walk this line."
Schulte reported on the status of bills in the Kansas legislature.
"There was more negativity toward schools than I've ever seen before," he said. "There was a strong anti-tax lobby, with the result that we'll be behind the eight-ball next year."
The legislature authorized the statewide education mill levy of 20 mills for two additional years. The base budget is only up $50, with no increases planned.
The Kan-Ed Technology Network bill directs the State Board of Regents to create a broadband technology-based network to which schools, libraries, and hospitals may connect for Internet access and intranet access for distance learning. It requires that 75 percent of the institutions that have applied to participate in the network must have access by July 1, 2004. Unfortunately, the legislature provided no funding to implement the plan beyond a few dollars to design the program.
Schulte said that district patrons need to let their legislators know how they feel about these and other school issues.
Previously, the Parents for Baseball group agreed to raise the $6,000 start-up fee for high school baseball. John Griffin, representative for the group, introduced Mark Eldridge of Kansas State Bank, who presented a check for this amount to the school board. Griffin reported there are 42 students signed up for the program.
Given the involvement of district patrons in getting the baseball program started, the board discussed procedures for adding activities. Current guidelines do not explain how parental or patron involvement fits in program start-ups.
"We don't have anything to show parents and the community about how to make contributions to this process," said Schulte.
Broers asked how new programs are evaluated, what are the criteria.
"I have no good answer," said White. "We evaluate coaches, but not the programs. If everyone would send me their ideas, I'll share them with the rest of the board at the next meeting."
Cheryl McCrary, president of the Baldwin Elementary School Parent-Teachers Organization, reported that the PTO is committed to raising $9,000 for an accelerated mathematics program for the district.
Under new business, the board approved the 2001-2002 calendar and tabled approval of the Baldwin Elementary School Handbook pending comparison to wording in other district handbooks to make sure the language in these documents is consistent across the district.