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Marshall school officials explain timing, planning for bond issue

Monday, August 17, 2009

Editor's note: This is the first in a series of articles about a proposed building project in the Marshall Public School District. The Board of Education will meet Tuesday, Aug. 18, at 6:30 p.m. to take up the question of whether to place a bond issue on the November ballot. Readers have posed a number of questions and concerns in discussion forums on The Marshall Democrat-News Web site, and this series will provide responses from school officials.

At a June 8 meeting, the Marshall Board of Education officially began laying the groundwork for a construction project that would add a new elementary school and expand two others.

The process began with a presentation June 8 by Richard G. Bartow, executive vice president of George K. Baum & Company, about the timing of seeking a bond issue.

Bartow urged the board to act soon if it intended to seek voter approval to borrow money for a building project, noting that conditions were unlikely to be as favorable again in the foreseeable future.

The board then enlisted the services of ACI Frangkiser Hutchens, an architectural design firm, to create preliminary school designs. The board also selected a construction management firm, Titan Construction, to oversee the project.

Those steps prompted some to ask whether the board was "getting the cart before the horse," by doing planning work before the bond issue was even placed on the ballot.

Board President Larry Godsey said the preliminary work is necessary to give voters information they need.

"You can't just go to the people and say, 'We want to borrow money and we don't know what we're going to do.'" he said. "You've got to have a plan in place. That's how you know how much it's going to cost."

Marshall Superintendent Craig Noah said the district is not risking money on the design and budget work being done now.

"If the bond issue doesn't pass, it doesn't cost the district a dollar," he said, adding that the architect and construction manager have a fee that will apply only if the bond issue passes.

"They are all working at-risk," Godsey added.

Another financial factor in the project is the availability of money through government economic stimulus programs that could significantly reduce the cost of the bond to the district by offsetting interest costs.

Two programs were outlined by Bartow, but Noah said the district can apply only after the bond issue is passed. He said the amount of money the district will qualify for depends on how many other school districts pass construction bond issues.

"They split it percentage-wise among all the ones that pass" bond issues, he said.

Several readers have also wondered whether a lawsuit filed last year against the district might affect the finances for the building project.

One lawsuit filed in Saline County Circuit Court seeks to appeal the termination of three teachers' contracts. A suit filed in federal district court by the same teachers seeks several million dollars in damages.

Godsey said the lawsuits have no effect on the building project.

"The lawsuit is a completely different issue. You're talking two different pots of money," he said. "The bond issue that we're asking for would go into Fund 4 and be for capital improvements. If by chance the lawsuit would cost us money, that would come out of the general fund."

Noah said the district hopes most or all of the costs of the teachers' legal action will be covered by insurance. So far, he estimated the cost of the district's legal defense at about $60,000 to $80,000.

Contact Eric Crump at marshalleditor@socket.net

Related stories:
Marshall school board selects construction management firm for proposed building project:
Marshall school board on the hunt again for new school:

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Thanks Eric. Looking forward to reading the next part. They have the right idea to give us the tax payers all the info we need.

-- Posted by Scarpetta on Tue, Aug 18, 2009, at 2:15 PM

As a tax payer let's talk dollars and cents. What will it cost me? (I realize that this is a multi part story.)

-- Posted by Scarpetta on Tue, Aug 18, 2009, at 12:07 PM
Response by Eric Crump/Editor:
This is something that will be addressed in the next part, but when I last talked to Craig Noah there was not a definite amount established yet. I'm not sure if tonight's meeting will provide more specific information, but it should be available soon.

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