Marshall Public School District voters will have an opportunity next week to consider whether to authorize the district to finance a new elementary school.
Polls will be open from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. Tuesday, Nov. 3.
--The primary reason school officials give for building a new school is to relieve overcrowding in existing elementary schools, each of which currently uses one or more trailers as classrooms. Trailers and one annex structure, intended to be temporary homes for classes, have been in use for nearly four decades.
--Another reason the school board gives for building a new school is to begin retiring buildings that are nearly 90 years old and are increasingly difficult and expensive to keep in good repair.
--The new school would house grades three through five, allowing the district to "decommission" one existing elementary school and stop or dramatically reduce the use of trailers as classrooms.
--The school district has a contract, contingent on the results of the election, to purchase 25 acres of land at about $9,000 per acre on the east side of South Odell Avenue just south of Stone Hedge Country Club.
--The school board considered opting for a four-grade school design, but it would have been difficult to get it built within budget, and after receiving input from community members at a series of public meetings, the board decided to build a three-grade school that includes a number of features the public expressed interest in, including a second entrance driveway, bleachers in the gym and lockers for students.
--The school board's long-term plan includes building a second elementary school as soon as the bond is paid down sufficiently. The board's goal is to replace all the district's oldest buildings as soon as possible, although the plan requires voter approval along the way and may take several decades to accomplish. It is possible that once a debt-service levy is established, the district might not have to ask voters for much, if any, tax increase for subsequent projects.
--The issue requires a 4/7 majority to pass.
--If approved, a debt-service levy of 80 cents per $100 assessed valuation would be created (the school district does not currently have a debt-service levy). The tax rate could be less than that, depending on how many other districts in the state pass bond issues. Marshall qualifies for a portion of available federal stimulus money to be used to reduce the interest cost of the bonds.
--Timing. Critics have argued that the current economic recession makes this the wrong time to approve a tax increase. Supporters counter that with interest rates at historic lows and with federal assistance available to lower interest costs, voters will get a better deal than ever. The district estimates it will receive about $6 million in federal interest assistance.
--Revenue from the debt-service levy would be used to pay back $20.3 million in bonds. The bond money can only be used to buy land and build and furnish the new school.
--Three previous bond issues -- November 2000, April 2001 and April 2003 -- failed at the polls. The 2000 and 2001 efforts were nearly identical, asking voters to approve $13 million in bonds to build two new elementary schools to house grades kindergarten through five. The 2003 issue asked for $11.9 million to build one new school and upgrade existing facilities.
--The district's current bonding capacity is $20.3 million, and it is no longer possible, according to architects, to build two three-grade buildings for that amount. Board members have indicated they want to build a structure that will serve the district for many years, as have the current buildings, rather than building a low-cost structure with a shorter lifespan.
--Concerns about traffic congestion near schools is one problem the district hopes to alleviate with a new facility, and steps have been taken in the site design to help reduce the problem. The original design included one entrance driveway. Architects have since added a second driveway. Bus and car traffic will be directed to separate driveways after entering the campus. District officials have said that the number of buses and the number of children riding buses probably will not change much if the new school is built, but the bus routing system will be streamlined and made more efficient.
--Return to multigrade schools is back on the table after parents expressed a desire during public meetings on the bond issue to use the building of the new school as an opportunity to return to some semblance of neighborhood schools. Neighborhood schools as people remember them are not really possible, according to school officials. But the new school would house grades three through five, and the school board has directed Superintendent Craig Noah to study the feasibility of making the remaining elementary schools multigrade schools. Currently, all elementary schools house a single grade plus kindergarten classes. Noah's report is due in March.