Technology upgrades approved by board
Bids have begun to roll in for the Baldwin School District and technology is the first department to benefit from the $22.9 million bond issue.
That first step happened Monday night at the Baldwin School Board meeting. A pair of bids was unanimously approved. They are the first official bids approved by the school board for the bond issue that was voted on in November.
The first of the bids came from EduTech Systems Inc. for $20,900. It was a bid to upgrade the wireless links to the two rural elementary schools with faster radios to increase capacity and reliability for the schools’ connection back to the central network.
Marion Springs Elementary School and Vinland Elementary School will benefit from this purchase. This bid also includes the construction of a 40-foot tower at VES to improve the line of sight.
The second bid Monday night will benefit all buildings in the district. The approved bid was for $69,648.25 from Pomeroy. It will be used to purchase ProCurve switches which will complete the infrastructure upgrade that the technology department outlined in its plan last year.
“Part of our bond issue was about $500,000 for technology and safety,” Supt. Paul Dorathy said. “They’ve gone ahead and run some bids for switches, which need to be improved. Those will help with bandwidth and speed. They’ve also run some bids for radios that run the wireless signal out to the two country schools. That work can now begin and it should provide a more consistent signal and larger bandwidth to those two schools.”
At Monday’s meeting, Dorathy informed the school board there hasn’t been much done with the new Baldwin Elementary School Primary Center or ball fields since the last meeting. However, he did say the bond committee will be meeting Friday to give review of its search for a school that has similar characteristics to what it’s looking for in the new BESPC.
Dorathy also said a new committee will be formed for the renovations at Baldwin Junior High School and the performing arts center. They will be lumped into one committee.
“That’s our next step,” Dorathy said. “We’re approaching the point where we are going to have a stakeholder’s meeting about the junior high renovations and the performing arts center. I’m hoping that group will meet before the end of the month to discuss what will happen with those facilities.”
The final update on the bond issue centered around the selling of the next $10 million in bonds. The first portion was sold more than a month ago. At the Dec. 8 meeting, John McArthur, district financial advisor, told the board that it might consider selling the next $10 million shortly after the new year because interest rates are low.
On Monday, Dorathy brought the subject up again, but said there could be a problem with selling those bonds too soon.
“Those additional bonds will accrue quite a bit of interest, which would raise the mill levy for the first payment,” Dorathy said. “The board said it wanted to hold off on the sale of those bonds so that the mill levy doesn’t increase on our taxpayers.”
He said the mill levy would jump an additional 5 mills for that first year. Dorathy also said the taxpayers would not be expecting that additional increase, but if the bonds were sold with a low enough interest rate, it might save the taxpayers money over the long haul.
“We have to put on our magic hats and project what interest rates will do,” said Board President Alison Bauer. “I don’t see them spiraling up right away.”
On Tuesday, Dorathy said the board will be keeping an eye on interest rates during 2009.
“We’re going to be watching it pretty close and checking it month to month,” Dorathy said. “When it comes time to lock in a rate, we’re going try and lock it in low.”