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Passage of bond order would provide huge facility upgrade to Schuyler Central

January 30, 2019

Area residents will soon have the opportunity to voice their opinions regarding a proposed renovation and expansion of Schuyler Central High School.

On Feb. 26, ballots are being mailed out to registered voters encompassing the Schuyler Community Schools District asking them to vote in favor of, or against, a $12.5-million bond referendum that would significantly modify the appearance and future layout of the 1953-built school structure. Ballots must be returned to the Colfax County Courthouse no later than March 12.

All of this, Schuyler Community Schools Superintendent Dan Hoesing said during a recent interview with the Sun, is being completed without raising the tax levy for district contributors.

“One of the things we had to think about was how we are going to sell this thing,” Hoesing said of the project. “Because in comparison to smaller districts that aren’t equalized, they have a lot higher cost per pupil but a lower tax. This bond is intended to not raise taxes, it’s revenue neutral. Right now, we are levying 10.87 cents for our buildings, and the highest year of the bond is 10.6 (cents) and then it declines over the years.

“So actually, if they vote this in, their building commitments go down. And so we have a bond schedule that shows in year two what you (the taxpayer) are paying goes down $200,000 and then it drops $300,000 for the remainder (of the 20-year bond).”

The total reach of the project calls for renovation work to be completed in the high school’s corridor, restrooms and east gym. New construction will take place for a new kitchen/cafeteria, additional locker rooms, a new gym and wrestling practice facility.

Renovation expenses are marked at $2 million, construction expenses $9 million and professional service, consisting of costs associating with contracting design architects; electrical, mechanical, structural, and civil engineers; interior design, acoustic design, food service design and construction management, among others, at $1.5 million.

The project, which Hoesing said is being contracted out in February with the clear knowledge that work can only take place with voter approval, is expected to start gearing up in June with construction work beginning on the new gymnasium, kitchen, cafeteria, locker rooms, parking lot and wrestling practice area. That work is outlined to be completed in the fall of next year.

In December 2020, work is projected to start revamping the old gymnasium into an event center. In regard to the gym renovation, passage of the bond would allow for the renovation of the east gym and stage to accommodate handicap accessibility, increase seating and improve acoustics, lighting, heating and air conditioning for performing arts, dance, music, drama and community meetings and events. This project with voter passage is expected to be completed by August 2021.

The need for renovation and expansion is clear, Hoesing said, noting the school would have to undertake portions of the project - likely at the burden of the taxpayer through a levy hike – to make certain areas of the school compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).

Without passage of the new bond order, provided information shows that the district would continue to levy at the present level, however, it would need to approve an additional bond through the Qualified Capital Purpose Undertaking Fund (QCPUF) to address the ADA and life safety compliance requirements. This could result in a 3-cent levy increase for up to 10 years ($417,265 per year).

“The important thing to look at is if we say, ‘vote yes,’ we get all of these amenities and all these things for our district,” Principal Stephen Grammer said. “If you vote, ‘no,’ taxes don’t go down, it means they actually go up because we have to do these ADA compliance regulations. So we would still have to raise money to do that, so why not just get some amenities and other stuff we need right now (through the proposed bond order.)”

It’s also a natural undertaking associated with continual growth. With high school enrollment in recent years spiking from around 450 to 600 students, there are real space confinements within the school.

Sheri Balak, of the Schuyler Community Schools Foundation, said that the 501(c) 3 nonprofit, which receives tax-deductible gifts – among other things – that benefits the school district, said that district capital improvements are a primary focus of the organization.

“One of our goals through the Schuyler Community Schools Foundation is capital improvements, supporting students and staff, alumni, and we believe that this project will more fully enhance the educational opportunities for these students,” Balak said. “And it will give them some pride in their facilities and pride in their education.”

Community members wishing to learn more about the full scope of the project are encouraged to attend informational meetings held inside the Schuyler Central High School band room – through voting time – from 6:30-7:30 p.m. on Mondays and Wednesdays.

Hoesing said that this isn’t just a district project, but a Schuyler community project as a whole.

“This is just the right thing to do,” Hoesing said of bond order passage. “It’s not about building facilities, it’s about building the community. It’s the right time to do this, and it’s the right thing to do to help the kids. It builds this program and it builds pride in a community.”

Sam Pimper is the news editor of the Schuyler Sun. Reach him via email at sam.pimper@lee.net

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