Board makes bond official
A November bond issue election for the Baldwin School District was officially approved Monday night.
The vote was unanimous, 6-0, to approve the bond resolution. The Baldwin School Board approved the $22.9 million bond issue and the right to draft a resolution at the June 2 meeting. Board Members Bill Busby and Ruth Barkley weren't at Monday's meeting, but Barkley was reached by telephone for her vote.
"Since they have passed the resolution, it's official that the process has started to put a question up for the voters of USD 348 at the Nov. 4 general election having to do with a $22.9 million bond issue," Supt. Paul Dorathy said. "So yes, it's official."
Now the decision rests in the hands of the district voters. They will decide whether or not the bond issue passes in November. Before they head to the polls to vote, Dorathy said a committee will be formed to campaign for the "yes" vote.
"The board will not have a lot more bond issue things on their plate," Dorathy said. "Now it's handed over and they've said go forward with it. The architects will take the main lead on that and they will be aided by the financial advisor and the construction management company, along with some school staff.
"From the district employee's standpoint, our main job is just to provide information out there for the public," he said. "We want them to be well informed before they go to the polls. I believe there will be a number of patrons that will be involved with going out and campaigning for the bond issue, but those will be non-district employees."
John McArthur, district financial advisor, said the committee must inform the public of three variables during the campaign.
"We will be educating the people on the need, the solution and the cost on this bond issue," McArthur said. "The need is out there and we explain why we need it. Then here's the solution that the board came up with and here's what it's going to cost."
McArthur gave the board his usual financial information sheet that breaks down how the bond issue would affect taxpayers. The $22.9 million bond would increase the monthly tax by $20.30 on a $200,000 home.
To figure out the tax increase on a person's property or business, look at the last assessment statement and multiply the assessed value, not appraised value, by 0.01059. That will be the yearly tax increase if the bond issue passes in November.
"What he tries to do is show a picture of where we are at on valuation for the moment," Dorathy said. "In my experience, as a bond payment gets closer to being paid off, the valuation in the district goes up and so the mill levy slowly drops over the years."
The $22.9 million bond issue includes a new 480-student Baldwin Elementary School Primary Center and early childhood center. That building would include the BESPC students, the 4-year-old program students, Parents as Teachers organization and possibly Rainbow Experience Preschool.
Also included on the committee's recommendation was a new performing arts center. It would be around 10,000 square feet and would hold around 600 people. Other items are four baseball and softball fields, a practice track and field facility, roof and updated heating and cooling systems at Baldwin Junior High School and technology and security needs.
Before the campaigning begins, the district must clear a couple of hurdles. The bond issue resolution must be approved by the Kansas State Board of Education and other entities, according to Dorathy.
"Anytime you run a bond issue, it has to go through the state school board first," Dorathy said. "Most of the time, they just approve that. It also has to go through the state board of taxes.
"All of that will start happening here very quickly," he said. "We will also start working with the county clerk. He has to be very involved with this in setting up the ballot and polling places."
Both Dorathy and McArthur said the time for low interest rates on the bond couldn't be better.
"The nice thing that's happened, even with the economy being in the situation that it's in, interest rates have dropped significantly on government bonds," Dorathy said. "Right now is actually a good time to lock in a bond price, because it will save taxpayers a considerable amount of interest over a 20-year bond payment. That's the good part of this."
McArthur agreed, also saying that the time for low construction bids is also right now.
"Contractors out there are hungry and they need the business," McArthur said. "That's when you want to bid, because they will give you lower bids on the projects. Also, we can lock in the almost 30-year historical low interest rate on this bond."
The school board won't meet again until July 14, but Dorathy and others will be busy working on the bond issue all summer and fall.
"Now a lot of work starts happening," Dorathy said. "We will have to spend a lot of time informing the public of the entire bond issue. That includes the reasons for it, what's involved and how much it will cost the taxpayer. So, we've got a lot to do between now and November."