With the unanimous vote of the Marshall Board of Education, the district will place a bond issue for school improvements on the April ballot, the third attempt in the last couple of years to pass such a measure.
The board voted 7-0 in special session Tuesday to pursue a bond issue that will not exceed $11.9 million. The plan calls for:
* renovating Bueker Middle School;
* the construction of an upper elementary for grades three through five;
* adding two new science labs to Marshall High School;
* adding air conditioning to the industrial arts building;
* renovating the existing elementary schools (Benton, Southeast and Eastwood).
Reducing the cost
After working for 18 months, the Marshall Public Schools Facility Committee gave its recommendation to the board last month. That recommendation included items totaling $13.6 million, however.
Facility Committee Chairman George Clemens, present along with other members of the committee Tuesday, said the price tag had actually been a point of contention in the group. He noted that some members of his committee felt the cost should be kept closer to $10 million.
Superintendent of Schools Joe Aull then shared his thoughts on ways to reduce the cost of the project. These included scaling back the renovations at BMS and the elementary buildings and dropping the air conditioning of the industrial arts building.
Facility Committee Vice Chairman Dale Zank reminded those in attendance about the harm that can be caused by estimating the costs too low. He said he would much rather have more funds available and be able to pay down the bond debt than have to come back and tell voters the district would not be able to do everything it said it would.
Renovate or wait
Board member Ed Kays, who qualified his statements by saying he favored new schools as much as anyone, asked if it would be wise to spend the recommended $3.5 million on Bueker Middle School. After all, the building turns 80 years old this year, he said.
"It's like putting a tuxedo on a pig," Kays said. "When you're done it's still just a pig."
Clemens and Facility Committee member Morris Shikles both said Bueker is actually structurally sound and, with the renovations, could last the district another 15 to 20 years.
Financial advisor Greg Bricker noted that if the bond issue passes in April, the district won't have the bonding capacity to build a new middle school until 2015 or later.
Timing an issue
The board also discussed the timing of the bond issue. School board President Jeff Stubblefield said it is important the public not feel that the district is forcing the bond issue on them. It was the consensus of those in attendance that there was no perfect time to move forward, but waiting only puts the district further behind on addressing facility needs.
"We've got to move ahead. We've got to start replacing some of our old buildings," Aull said. "I feel frustrated. I feel that our kids deserve better facilities than we have."
Scott Hartwig, a member of the Facility Committee, said if the board did not move now it would be a waste of the last year and a half.
"We put a lot of time and effort into this," he said. "If we postpone it, we'll lose what momentum we've built up."
Facility Committee member Clay Mead said media attention of the issue has the public expecting the issue in April. He said he understood the board's concerns, however.
"It scares me, too," he said.
Involving the public
Knowing voters have turned down two previous proposals, the board is keenly sensitive to public opinion.
Board member Kathy Green said the district needs to provide the community with a list of things that will be done "not just a hodgepodge of 'we might, we might.'"
Facility Committee member Tom Marshall said informing the public is going to be key.
"If people believe in what you're doing, they will support a tax," he said.
The board said it would call on members of the Facility Committee to help with the education process preceding the April election.