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Sunday, May 1, 2016

Monett school board looks at April bond issue

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Monett Elementary School has been eyed by the Board of Education for a remodeling which will enclose the open 1960s-style campus. [Times Photo by Murray Bishoff]
Plans for seeking a no-tax-increase bond issue in April were discussed at the August meeting of the Monett R-1 Board of Education.

Dr. Alan Crader, consultant with the L.J. Hart and Company investment banking firm of St. Louis reviewed the district's finances to see how big a proposal the district could pursue by asking voters to continue the present tax levy. Going to voters in 2010, said Superintendent Dr. John Jungmann, would qualify the district for interest-free qualified school construction bonds, making any project less expensive.

Interest-free bonds are available under the federal stimulus package. Unlike typical bonds, Jungmann said these would have to be paid off in a 15-year period, rather than 20, reducing the size of any potential project.

According to Crader's assessment, the district could handle a $4 million to $5 million project without asking for more taxes. The debt service portion of the district's property tax levy could stay at 46 cents.

The calculations for covering the debt worked on the assumption that the district's property valuations would grow at a rate of 3 to 4 percent a year. Over the last five years, Jungmann said, valuations have increased by 7 to 8 percent annually. Even at 2 percent growth, the district could handle a $4 million project under Crader's calculations.

Seeing a major undertaking was within reach, the board issued a request for architects to submit proposals. Sapp Design Associates, who developed plans for the Southwest Area Career Center and the Monett Intermediate School, has provided initial information. Board members opted to seek fee schedules from other firms. A decision on which architect to hire will likely be made at the September meeting.

"This is very good news," Jungmann said. "We feel like we can begin to move forward on a project that will improve efficiency and safety at the elementary campus. We will continue to gather community input on that project to make sure the project is what the community desires."

When one of Sapp's architects brought in conceptual ideas for enclosing Monett Elementary last year, the plan focused on enclosing the classroom wings with corridors, adding a new front office and reducing the number of exterior exits. Since that time, Jungmann said the board has been moving toward adding classrooms, but more significantly, adding a new gymnasium that could double as a storm shelter. Students use the current gym as a shelter now.

Jungmann said developing a multi-purpose building would be crucial. Making a storm shelter a priority, something that does not exist on the west side of town, might also open some financing options through the Federal Emergency Management Agency.

Discussion of the plan will continue into the fall. Jungmann expected he would again schedule a number of forums around the community to gather public input.

Moving into a discussion about tax revenues, the board passed its annual tax levy. Jungmann said the district's assessed valuation grew by $3 million over the previous year due to new construction and reassessment, which will bring in close to $60,000 in new revenue.

"We're happy to see that much growth," Jungmann said. "We had anticipated less than 2 percent considering the economy."

The board's two members who serve on the Tax Increment Financing Commission (TIF), Rod Anderson and Scott Beckwith, reported on the dispute developing over the legitimacy of Monett's 13-year-old TIF program with Barry and Lawrence counties and the Barry County Emergency Services Board.

"We are, as a district, sitting back to see what happens," Jungmann said. "Our stance is we committed to the TIF and will stand behind it with the dollars we committed when it was first formed."

Board members recognize, Jungmann noted, that if the TIF is deemed to be inappropriate by the courts, the city will not be able to reimburse the school district for the $140,000 a year loss in income coming from the latest widening of Highway 60.

While discussing finances, Jungmann reported the Missouri Commissioner of Education got word from budget chairmen in both the Missouri House and Senate expressed concern that the state may not be able to pay its half of the Career Ladder program for the 2009-10 school year. Career Ladder provides pay to teachers for additional work such as tutoring and professional development beyond regular classroom hours. The state pays half and school districts pay half.

Jungmann said legislators have threatened to pull out of Career Ladder before but never this early in the year. The school board reaffirmed the district's commitment to paying its half.

On the topic of facilities, Jungmann reported the summer improvement projects were 99 percent complete. The canopy between the high school and the Career Center should be finished in another week and paving the backside of the Career Center around the new construction technology building should also be finished soon.

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