Michael Koutz of ACI/Frangkiser Hutchens and Greg Bricker of George K. Baum and Associates were both on hand to field question and provide information to the committee as it begins making preparations for a third attempt at a bond issue to fund improvements to the district's aging school buildings.
Elementary school review
Koutz spoke first, beginning with a review of the building schematics put forth in the last bond issue, put to voters in 2001. The two elementary school buildings were designed to hold about 600 students each. The lower elementary school building was designed for students in kindergarten through the second grade, with 60,800 square feet and had an estimated cost of $6.1 million. The upper elementary building, for students in the third through fifth grades, had 64,300 square feet and a $6.5 million price tag.
When asked if the old cost estimates would still hold true, Koutz was cautious in making a reply.
"We're two years later, which is usually not good news," he said, but added the current economy has helped to hold construction costs down.
However, Koutz also warned that following a similarly level time in 1993-94, construction costs spiked sharply.
Middle school ideas
Koutz also briefly touched on the costs of building a new middle school. Even though the middle school would also house about 600 students, a new building for those grade levels would cost about $10 million to construct. He said this is because an elementary school is designed with 130 square feet per pupil while middle schools usually aim for about 160 square feet per student.
"The spaces just get bigger," he said, noting that middle school students need more room for science labs and other exploratory classes that elementary students do not require.
In looking at renovating Bueker Middle School, the architects came up with a relatively long "to-do" list. Items on the list in need of replacement included old tile which contains asbestos, chalkboards, lockers, toilet partitions and hardware, rubber stair treads, the plumbing system, the electrical system and the fire alarm system. The building also needs a lighting upgrade, more electrical outlets and air conditioning and has some handicap accessibility issues, Koutz said.
All told, the recommended improvements were estimated at $3,559,000. Koutz said even though the renovation list might seem extensive, gutting the building and starting over would not be a viable option. Such a project would probably cost triple the renovation estimate.
Koutz said the renovations would extend the life of the building about 20 years, but as the building continues to age, its maintenance requirements will increase.
"It's an old building and it's going to be an old building," he said. A new building would be constructed to last 40 years or more with proper maintenance.
Koutz ended his presentation with a discussion of possible sites for construction. The first two sites are located north of Missouri Highway 240 and east of Lincoln Avenue. They are owned by the city of Marshall and could be made available to the district at little or no cost.
There are some problems with the sites, however. Koutz noted that neither site is connected to utilities and both would require improvements to their Highway 240 intersections. Making these improvements could cost as much as $1 million, he said. In addition, Koutz noted a perception among the public from the last election that the north part of town is the wrong location for a school.
Other sites discussed were among those proposed during the last bond issue. These included a tract of land owned by the Gieringer family between Watermill Road and Lincoln Avenue and land owned by the Banks family off the Lincoln Avenue extension.
Koutz said the Gieringer property has utilities, but the land "rolls" a bit more than the sites to the north. The Banks property has some utilities, but would need street improvements since the street extension is not paved at this time.
The final property discussed was the Newell Property, located on Miami Avenue and bordered to the west by U.S. Highway 65 and the north by Missouri Highway 240. He said the property would be nice to build on, providing good access and all utilities. However, he said there is still a negative perception held by the public about the property.
Bricker spoke about financial options and what a bond issue would mean to the district's taxpayers. He explained that currently district patrons pay a total levy of $3.55 with 36 cents of that going toward retiring the district's outstanding debt.
Bricker presented the group with several scenarios to give it an idea of what a bond issue would cost taxpayers. In the event that the district would want to pursue a bond issue of $12.5 million, the debt service levy would have to be increased by 44 cents and carried out over a 20-year period.
This would represent an annual increase of about $8.55 per $10,000 of value for residential property, Bricker said. With such a bond issue, a person with a $50,000 home would expect the annual tax on that home to increase by about $42.75 and a person with a $100,000 house would see an increase of around $85.50.
Bricker also pointed out commercial property is taxed at a different rate than residential property. A 44-cent levy increase would represent an increase of about $14.40 per $10,000 of property value in regard to commercial property.
While talking about bond interest rates, there was some discussion about the state of the economy. Bricker said it is important to remember the bonds will be repaid over a long period of time. With fluctuations to be expected, it might be better to start in a poor economy so the district will "know what bad looks like," he said.
"This is a 20-year bond issue," Bricker said. "The economy will be bad and it will be good over that 20-year period."
The committee scheduled its next meeting for Monday, Nov. 4. It is facing something of a time crunch if the bond issue is to be put to voters for the April 2003 election. The deadline to file for that election is the last Tuesday in January.
The April election is the only one next year in which the bond issue would need only a four-sevenths majority to pass. In all other 2003 elections the bond issue would require a two-thirds majority to pass under Missouri statute. The next election qualifying for four-sevenths passage of an issue would be April 2004.