Archive for Thursday, November 1, 2007

Board eyes capital outlay for Starside addition

Architect, construction company issue for elementary expansion

November 1, 2007

The De Soto USD 232 Board of Education has some homework to do.

Board members Tuesday night were asked to sift through several pages of information presented to them at its special meeting to determine how to best manage the district's growth.

The special meeting was planned in response to the district's failed September bond issue. Patrons rejected $70.5 million in expansion projects, security enhancements, an early childhood education center, theater additions and artificial turf.

District employees at the special meeting gave several presentations to the board highlighting information related to growth management, including cohort enrollment projections, early childhood education enrollment, boundary maps, building plans and capital outlay projects.

Board members did not approve any measures for managing growth but did offer their consent when Superintendent Sharon Zoellner asked to bring in Ken DeSieghardt from DeSieghardt Strategic Communications for a presentation on a possible districtwide scientific survey at Monday's board meeting.

At its next meeting the board also will discuss possibly funding additions to Starside Elementary School with capital outlay funds.

District facilities director Denis Johnson presented a possible timeline to the board that revealed the school addition could be completed by August 2008 if the board approved using capital outlay funds at Monday's meeting. That plan was feasible if the board kept its services with Hollis and Miller Architects, the company that originally drew up the plans for Starside. However, board member Randy Johnson said he would not support continuing services with Hollis and Miller.

"As long as the same construction company is involved in the process, I could not disagree more," he said. "I would not approve it."

Board President Janine Gracy said approving use of capital outlay funds for Starside was very likely.

"That's a critical need," she said. "Those tough conversations will have to take place Monday night."

Zoellner also presented a timeline that would be needed if the board were to pursue a bond issue. The next possible general election is April 1, 2008. However, pursuing a bond for the April election would leave the board very little time to gather information for another bond issue that patrons would support. The board would have to adopt a resolution calling an election with the finalized bond question by Jan. 1.

Another possibility included a Nov. 4, 2008, bond issue. Zoellner said if the board waited until the November election, there would be time to analyze results of a scientific survey if the board approved one.

Board member Don Clark said from a financial standpoint, he was concerned about waiting so long to put a bond before voters.

"I am an investment advisor," he said. "We are seeing interest rates decline right now but I don't think we have a big open window. We may have six to nine months for this environment. I would rather do a bond at a lower interest rate and save the taxpayers some money."

When board members were asked for their input and questions at the end of the meeting, Johnson said he was upset by the evening's presentation concerning middle school adjustments.

Earlier in the meeting, district learning services director Bret Church presented the board with information about how the middle school buildings and curricula were organized. He said it would be challenging to maintain the team-style learning environment that is used in the middle school level if students were relocated to the middle schools to create more room at Mill Valley High School.

Johnson said he felt the district was presenting only one option for board members -- more boundary changes.

"I am very frustrated on what I heard tonight," he said. "I heard a bunch of figures, and I heard we can't move classes around."

Church said that was not the message he was trying to send.

"I think it is possible to make adjustments to take care of emergency needs," he said. "I don't want to send the message that it's not available -- that it's not a solution. It may be a combination of things that make that work."

District human resource director Mark Schmidt said he helped Church prepare the presentation and it was important board members realized there was going to have to be some changes.

"In essence as a board you need to decide what you are willing to give up to get something," he said. "What price are you willing to pay?"

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