Thursday, April 24, 2014

What if West Franklin’s bond proposal fails?

By ABBY CROSTHWAIT, Herald Staff Writer | 5/15/2013

POMONA — The West Franklin school board is revisiting its priorities.

After receiving a list of maintenance projects for West Franklin buildings, the estimated cost of the projects, including technology upgrades, would be about $6.4 million, according to school district estimates.

POMONA — The West Franklin school board is revisiting its priorities.

After receiving a list of maintenance projects for West Franklin buildings, the estimated cost of the projects, including technology upgrades, would be about $6.4 million, according to school district estimates.

Board members decided they were only comfortable spending about $2 million from reserve funds on those projects, in the event voters do not approve a June 4 bond proposal, Dotson Bradbury, West Franklin superintendent, said this week, leaving the board tasked with prioritizing which projects to do first and how much could be spent.

The list of projects and the estimated costs were:

• Electrical — $700,000;

• Plumbing — $150,000;

• Windows — $307,200;

• Phones — $200,000;

• Roofs — $550,000;

• Food service — $256,500;

• HVAC — $1,702,995;

• Gyms — $648,408;

• Fire/Tornado — $300,000;

• Parking Lots — $860,000; and

• Technology — $764,114.

Thayne Bush, board president, said going through the list and deciding which projects were more important than others was frustrating.

“It was very difficult to prioritize,” he said. “We can’t really cut anything because it all needs to be fixed. It’s a matter of prioritizing which to do first and what will affect education less.”

The $14.3-million bond issue proposed for West Franklin would consolidate the district into a centralized campus in Pomona. The proposed bond issue would cover classroom additions, renovations of existing buildings, a new gym, weight room, vocational/agricultural education, a wood shop building, an eight-lane competition track and parking lot improvements, according to West Franklin’s website. The improvements also would connect the campus buildings.

The board now has about $4 million in reserves, Bradbury said. The reason, he said, for only spending a portion of the reserve fund is to maintain a comfortable amount in the fund in case of unforeseen events.

“You have to have reserves there,” Bradbury said. “You need reserves in food service, because you can’t always anticipate a spike in food costs, or that a piece of equipment is going to go. So when those things occur, you can get them replaced and attended to.”

After deciding on an amount to spend on repairs in the event the bond doesn’t pass, the board selected the top priority projects, as well as how much money would be spent, including:

• $500,000 for electrical across the district;

• $150,000 for plumbing in main building at the high school;

• $200,000 for phone systems across the district in all facilities;

• $550,000 for roof repairs across the district;

• $256,500 for upgrading food service equipment across the district;

• $300,000 for HVAC repairs or possible replacement;

• $25,000 for baseball/softball electrical upgrade;

• $281,408 for varsity bleachers and gym floor; and

• $5,000 for bleacher repairs at Appanoose Elementary School.

The board opted to cover those expenditures — totaling $2,267,908 — from the reserve fund.

Bush said the prioritization was based on which repairs would directly effect student education if they weren’t fixed, saying that the repairs have been a long time coming.

“I’ve been on the board for four years. Most problems we’re dealing with now were on the list of things that needed to be done when I got on the board and the board before that,” he said. “These are inherited problems.”

On the list of proposed projects was a technology plan regarding the cost of placing an electronic device into the hands of every child, grades K-12, along with the cost of increasing the wireless access in all buildings in the district, according to the agenda. Because of the cost of the plan, Bush said, it simply wasn’t one of the top priorities on the list.

“We didn’t say completely cut it. It’s going to have to take several years to pass it in,” he said. “Ideally, it would go in all at once. It’s an overall costs savings because you don’t have to buy both e-reader books and text books, so it would be best to do it all at once. But the cost of doing that all at once is a three quarters of a million dollars. That just won’t fit into the budget right now.”

Bush compared the issue of consolidating all buildings in the West Franklin district to one campus in Pomona, to the same scenario the Central Heights school district faced when they consolidated all campuses.

“Even if schools didn’t need repairs, it still makes sense to put all [students]on one campus because it’s the most efficient way to educate the kids,” he said. “Central Heights, they consolidated back in the late ’50s or ’60s and they closed several schools. Their bond issue will enhance what they already have, but we don’t have those things to enhance. That’s why our number is so big, because we’ve put off the inevitable for a long time.”

The Central Heights school district, based in Richmond, also is in the process of trying to pass a bond issue to repair its facilities.

Bush said West Franklin’s June 4 bond issue would fix all of the necessary repairs and then some, but until it passes, the board had a tough decision in determining which projects were more important.

“That’s what brought along the need for the bond proposal and to finish our reconfiguration to get everybody on one campus,” he said. “So we can move forward and keep up in the education game. We have to keep up and that’s what it’s all about.”

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