2012 Bond Issue Proposal Unveiled

Post date: Nov 22, 2011 4:21:46 AM

Superintendent Quinn presented to the Board of Education on 11/21/2011 a bond issue proposal from the District's Long-Range Facilities Planning Committee. The board will take action on the proposal at a noon meeting on December 8. If the board accepts the proposal, the bond issue would go before voters on Valentine's Day: February 14, 2012.

Eventually a presentation about the bond issue will be made at each school site. Since the details on the bond issue financing are still being worked out, this post identifies the major components of the bond issue without breaking out the costs by project. The total cost is a bit under $50 million.

The plan is similar to the previous $30 million bond issues in 2000 and 2007 in that it includes funding for major capital projects as well as technology, curriculum, transportation, and music and athletics programs. The proposed plan does not increase the effective millage rate, so the property tax levels for district patrons would be unchanged. It is an 8 or 9-year bond issue to allow the full amount to be raised, but uses a lease/purchase arrangement to speed up construction projects.

SECONDARY SCHOOL RECONFIGURATION

The Long-Range Facilities Planning Committee recognized that the 2001 bond issue made significant improvements to the senior high and the 2007 bond issue expanded several elementaries and the mid-high, but the middle schools were largely unaddressed. The committee also recognized that repeated crises from declining state funding make it imperative that the district continue to reduce personnel, utility, and site costs if it is to preserve class sizes and provide for competitive salary growth. So a plan was developed which would address the needs of the middle schools while achieving significant long-term savings in operational and personnel costs by closing one of the four secondary schools.

SENIOR HIGH

To accommodate sophomores, an 18-room three-story classroom addition on the north end of campus (extending the science wing) would provide a Bruin Academy complex on the ground floor, four new science labs on the first floor, and eight new classrooms on the second floor. A new cafeteria/commons would be built to the south of the stadium adjoining the east side of the connecting link. The 1939 Phillips Field House would be renovated to provide larger spaces for weight rooms, wrestling, poms and cheerleaders, and band instrument storage.

The ambitious timeline calls for beginning construction in the summer of 2012 so that sophomores could move over beginning with the 2013-2014 school year. Construction delays could of course shift that back to January 2014 or later if necessary.

MID-HIGH

The cafeteria would be expanded to reduce the number of lunches needed to serve the 8th and 9th graders and the office area would be reworked to provide better entrance security.

MIDDLE SCHOOLS

The committee wrestled for a long time with the best solution to the problem of two aging middle schools, each with significant shortcomings. During the life of the next bond issue Central would reach 100 years of continuous use and it is difficult to further expand the building because of its design and an ungainly cafeteria/classroom building to the north blocking expansion into Earl Sears Park. Madison is much newer than Central, but was built cheaply during the baby boom using a "California-style" architecture with free standing brick walls surrounded by windows. Over the years it has deteriorated significantly and most of the windows have been filled or painted in due to problems with light and climate control. The committee was faced with very expensive remodels and additions at either site to allow either one to serve all 6th and 7th graders and achieve the desired personnel and utility cost savings.

The committee was also cognizant of increasing competition from Owasso for relocating families. Owasso is a growing community and school district, so its facilities are much newer and more attractive than Bartlesville's current middle schools, which serve a district which has had a stable enrollment of about 6,000 students for several decades.

The committee eventually recommended a lease-purchase arrangement in a large-scale bond issue so that an entirely new 6th/7th grade center could be built near Madison. Madison could then be razed, perhaps retaining the existing free-standing auditorium. Recognizing the community's affection for the historic Central building, the committee recommended consolidating existing district functions from the Education Service Center and Will Rogers Complex into Central, allowing the other two buildings to be shut down and sold off. Thus Central would remain an active educational site for a variety of district functions, but would no longer serve as a secondary school.

The ambitious timeline calls for beginning construction in 2012 with the new school operational by January 2014. One might expect that any significant construction delays could cause that to slip to August 2014.

EARLY CHILDHOOD CENTER AT RICHARD KANE ELEMENTARY

The only portable buildings still in use by the district are three old and decrepit portables serving five classes at Richard Kane and a portable at Madison. All of these would be eliminated and a new Early Childhood Center would be added to Richard Kane Elementary, in the same style as the new pods at Wayside, Wilson, and Ranch Heights.

IMPROVEMENTS AT OTHER ELEMENTARY SCHOOLS

Each of the other elementaries would receive their top-priority improvements. Hoover would have a reworked entryway to improve security and work on its gym floor and a side entrance canopy. Wayside would have expanded storage and a walkway cover, Wilson would receive playground equipment, Ranch Heights would have an asphalt playground expansion, and Jane Phillips would get windows for its cafeteria.

ATHLETICS

Custer Stadium would get a new press box, sound system, lights, and handrails. A new visitor concession stand and restroom would replace one of the old ones near the south ticket booth. The five aging tennis courts at the senior high would be replaced by eight new courts at the Mid-High. The Phillips Field House at BHS would be revamped for expanded areas for weights, wrestling, poms, and cheerleading.

FINE ARTS

The BHS Fine Arts Center would receive lighting and sound upgrades, band instrument storage would be expanded, and the bond includes funding for risers as well as a variety of band instruments, equipment, and uniforms as well as vocal music equipment and clothing.

CURRICULAR NEEDS

The bond would include funding for a variety of curricular needs including software, textbooks, elementary school FOSS science kits, and secondary school science lab equipment.

TECHNOLOGY

The bond would include funding to replace computers, printers, copiers, and projectors. It would have funding for a video distribution system and, if tablet technology and electronic textbooks should mature sufficiently, future handheld devices for students and faculty.

CHILD NUTRITION & CUSTODIAL

For the first time in many years the bond would include funding to improve district cafeteria and kitchen equipment as well as custodial equipment.

MINOR CAPITAL PROJECTS

The bond would include funding for ongoing maintenance needs such as new carpet and flooring, blinds, windows, roof repairs and replacements, and climate control system repairs.

TRANSPORTATION

A separate bond issue would provide ongoing funding to replace aging district vehicles, including buses.

LEASE/PURCHASE

Because of the district's limited bonding capacity, adding on to the senior high and building a new middle school would normally take years to accomplish. The bond issue proposal includes utilizing a lease/purchase arrangement, similar to what is done in many suburban schools. This would provide money up-front to immediately start adding on to the senior high and building a new middle school. The chief advantages include:

  • more of the current parents can see their children in the new buildings rather than waiting up to eight years before the middle school could be completed
  • interest rates and construction costs are extremely low at this time and are expected to rise significantly in coming years as the economy improves
  • net cost savings from consolidation could be realized sooner

The downside to the proposed lease/purchase arrangement is that the district's counsel and financial advisers do not recommend that we follow the lead of some other districts in using bond funds to pay interest on the lease/purchase agreements due to legal concerns about the constitutionality of that approach. Instead they recommend using the district's building fund to pay that interest, an approach clearly supported by a 2009 state law. This will put a strain on the building fund which the administration contends can be handled by utilizing an existing $900,000 balance left over from the previous sale of the Limestone property and by using some of the cost savings from consolidating the secondary schools to offset the interest costs, with the district coming out ahead after a few tight years in the building fund. The danger is that if the building fund is drawn down too far then the general fund and/or the district's fund balance might have to be tapped to pay some of the interest. But without a lease/purchase agreement it does not appear feasible to build a new middle school, something the committee felt was of prime importance in a truly long-range plan.

MORE DETAILS TO COME

Further information, including an approximate cost breakdown by project, will be forthcoming.