Committee Co-Chairman Wayne Crawford and Campaign Subcommittee Chairman Cherri Williams addressed district faculty and staff in an after-school meeting Wednesday, Oct. 7, at Marshall High School.
The Marshall Board of Education is asking voters in the district to approve a $20.3 million bond issue to build a new one-story elementary school that will house grades three through five.
Regarding the timing of the issue, Crawford noted that financial advisors to the district and to Missouri Valley College, where he serves on the Board of Trustees, have described the current situation as "a perfect storm" for institutions, a convergence of financial circumstances and government economic stimulus programs have made borrowing extraordinarily cheap.
"They say bonding rates are the lowest they've ever been in history, as low as 2 percent," Crawford said. "This is one of those rare times where if you're going to bond, you better bond."
He said that although the ballot includes notice of an 80-cent tax debt service levy, the amount could be lower, depending on how much government stimulus money is available.
Crawford showed a slide with levy and debt service levy rates in area school districts. Marshall's operating levy is lower than any of the schools in the comparison at $3.06 per $100 assessed value, he said.
And comparing districts of similar size -- Boonville, Chillicothe, Lexington, Santa Fe and Sedalia -- Marshall is the only one that does not currently have a debt service levy.
Crawford addressed misconceptions about the location chosen by the school board, a 25-acre tract located on the east side of Business 65 just south of the intersection with Drake Road.
Crawford noted that five properties were put forward by owners or their representatives. Two properties that were considered during previous bond issues were not made available by owners, he said.
Of the properties the board was able to consider, the size ranged from 25 acres to more than 50 acres, and asking prices from $9,000 to $25,000 per acre. The board chose the smallest, least expensive site.
Board members have noted in previous meetings that the property they chose has the largest useable area of any they had to choose from.
Crawford said that while the school board has pledged to close one existing elementary school building if the bond issue passes, it has not yet determined which building will be closed. Responding to neighbors' concerns, he said the board has promised to dispose of the building properly.
"We will not abandon the school and leave it blighted," Crawford said. "It will be sold to someone who has a legitimate use for it, or it will be torn down."
Crawford noted that the school board had paid attention to feedback from the community and had asked architects to make several changes to the plan as a result.
The board shifted from an 800-student, four-grade school to the current 600-student, three grade school. The smaller building has a smaller price tag, which allowed the design to include features the community expressed desire for, including a second driveway to help relieve the potential for traffic congestion, bleachers for the gym so the facility can possibly be used for a wider range of events, lockers for student use and an energy-efficient ground-source heat pump system.
Crawford also responded to several questions from members of the audience.
One man asked whether the board had done a feasibility study of buying homes in a blighted area and building the school in town.
Crawford said he didn't think that option had gotten serious consideration because the cost of offering property owners fair market value and the cost of demolition would have made it impractical.
Another audience member noted that closing only one existing building might hurt the campaign.
"If you build for three grades and you don't close three buildings, you're increasing yearly costs and that's what'll keep you from passing this bond issue," he said.
Crawford acknowledged that annual costs might increase some, but he noted that the new building would be much more efficient than the old ones and it will be necessary to keep three buildings in order to ease overcrowding.
The Bueker Middle School annex and the temporary trailers located at each elementary school to house overflow from the buildings will be eliminated.
Crawford said the BMS annex had been there for at least 30 years, and several members of the audience said it had been there for 40. Trailers, intended to be stopgap measures, have been at elementary schools for 20 or more years, he said.
"The only people who can be blamed is us, because we didn't pass those bonds in earlier years and we're paying the price for it now," he said. "If you don't pass it now, you only exacerbate the problem" of paying high maintenance costs.
Crawford concluded by reminding teachers and staff how important they are to the campaign.
"If you people in this room do not believe in this, we will fail," he said.
Williams then told the group about coming opportunities to help.
She said yard signs and fliers have been made, and plans are being made for distributing materials and going door-to-door Saturdays in coming weeks.