Questions answered regarding bond issue
It’s hard to go anywhere in Baldwin City without being reminded of the Nov. 4 election, mostly because of politicians’ signs.
However, that day is also important for the Baldwin School District. Its $22.9 million bond issue is also on the ballot in 12 days. With that looming and many questions being asked about the bond, Supt. Paul Dorathy wanted to clear up a few issues and answer patrons’ questions.
The main question being asked is why the district is doing this now with the economy in its current state.
“There is never a good time to propose raising taxes, but currently interest rates for municipal bonds are low,” Dorathy said. “We need to remember as those rates increase, so does the burden on our taxpayers.”
While addressing the issue of the economy, Dorathy said the construction of new facilities will bring money into Baldwin City. He found research studies done by Rutgers University and West Virginia University that confirmed the impact of construction in a city.
“The construction of the new buildings and facilities would bring considerable economic impact to Baldwin City during that construction phase,” Dorathy said. “About 5 percent of your actual construction costs come back into the community. Then the general practice is that money turns over seven times within the community.
“They would be spending money in town for gas, food and lodging,” he said. “That impact multiplies seven times and I’ve read a couple of recent research studies that say that.”
The largest facility that would be constructed is the new Baldwin Elementary School Primary Center. It’s also the largest chunk of the cost as it is projected to cost more than $14 million.
Many questions have surrounded the choice to build a new school, although the current building is 50 years old. Dorathy said the facilities committee considered remodeling the school, but decided against that for several reasons.
“We found that the existing primary center site is small and lacks the proper land area for additional classrooms, off-street parking and safer drop-off and pick-up areas,” he said. “Plus, a remodel would cost approximately 75 percent of a brand new building. The best option for our taxpayers and our students is to build a new facility that will provide the level of education our students deserve.”
Other questions have been asked about BESPC. One of those is why the school district can’t use space on the third floor of the District Office for BESPC classrooms.
“We do have rooms up there, but the problem is they are up three flights of stairs and that makes it difficult for little children to go up and down those stairs,” Dorathy said. “Plus, if we have any child or parent that would need to access that classroom with any sort of handicap, it’s difficult to access that floor because there is no elevator in this building. That’s predominantly why we haven’t used those for classrooms.”
The other large item on the bond issue is the auditorium, which is primarily used by Baldwin High School and Baldwin Junior High School. The $3.7 million performing arts center is proposed to be a 600-seat facility with better lighting, acoustics and more room for the students and staff to operate.
“The current auditorium is nearly 40 years old and is too small for our performing arts curriculum,” Dorathy said. “A performing arts center is an integral part of any school system that teaches proper decorum at more formal functions and events, not just assemblies, but also lectures, elections, performances, presentations, ceremonies and graduations. We are preparing students for activities both during and beyond high school and must provide appropriate facilities to support our initiative.”
The school board also included a $2.7 million chunk of the bond issue to go toward new baseball and softball fields and a practice track facility. Dorathy said many people have asked why those are needed, since Baker University’s Liston Stadium is used for track practice.
“Personal safety was a key factor in the determination to build a new track on district property,” Dorathy said. “The stadium becomes congested, as it is also used by Baker’s track, football, baseball, softball and soccer athletes. Our junior high and high school student athletes often share the stadium with Baker athletes, creating a dangerous environment, due to the wide range of ages and skill levels.
“We made a commitment several years ago to offer both baseball and softball programs to our high school students, and now we have an obligation to provide safe and adequate facilities for these athletes,” he said. “Our current fields are not regulation size, disqualifying our school from hosting postseason play. The lack of proper drainage creates soggy conditions after rains, sometimes forcing our athletes to miss several days of practice or competitions.”
The other two items on the bond issue are BJHS renovations (includes new roof and HVAC system for $1.2 million) and technology upgrades for $500,000.
The patrons campaigning for the bond issue have created a Web site promoting it. The link is www.votebest.org. For more information on the bond issue, contact Dorathy at 594-2721 or visit www.usd348.com.
“I hoped this would kind of clear up some questions people have asked,” Dorathy said. “These are some commonly asked questions. I just thought that we should try and answer some of those for them.”