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home : news : news Tuesday, May 24, 2016

12/15/2012 Email this articlePrint this article 
Seeing into the future. The conceptual drawing prepared by Modern Design Architects shows what Northeast’s campus could look like if voters approve a bond issue for an estimated $6.5 million gym and classroom addition. The proposal includes four science classrooms, a 1,500-seat gym and construction of new outdoor athletic facilities. Contributed photo.
Northeast schools moving ahead on bond vote for gym, classroom addition

By Jeremy Huss
Staff writer

The Northeast Community School Board hopes to bring a bond issue proposal to voters in April for construction of a $6.5 million gym and classroom addition, and financial data shows the school district will be able to lower its debt service levy even while it pays for the multi-million dollar construction project.

After reviewing preliminary design documents for the project with the architects and discussing financial scenarios with Northeast's financial advisor at a special meeting Dec. 12, the board agreed to move forward with efforts to hold a bond issue vote April 2.

A major factor in the board's decision to move forward now, rather than waiting a year, is a potential savings of $700,000 over the life of the bonds if interest rates begin to rise from their current historic lows.

Board members said it makes sense to act now based on a positive community response to the proposed project and the potential interest savings.

"It's kind of a perfect storm," board member Rich Krogmann said.

The district, and its architects, will have to act quickly in order to meet statutory deadlines to place the bond measure on an April ballot.

A petition from residents requesting the bond issue vote must be filed with the county auditor by Feb. 15, and the petition must include a specific dollar amount for the project, something the architects have yet to develop.

The petition must be signed by 25 percent of the number of voters in the last school election, which for Northeast means 15 signatures are required.

Architects Rob Stensland and Kevin McConnell of Modern Design said it's feasible to prepare a more-detailed cost estimate for the project and meet the Feb. 15 filing deadline, but soil borings and a survey will have to be completed first.

Conceptual design laid out

Stensland and McConnell presented the board and administrators copies of conceptual design documents for the project that were developed from discussions with Northeast's building committee.

"It's kind of a wish list of what we want, and it needs to be refined by the board," Stensland said.

The new addition would connect to the existing building through a hallway near the current shop area and would be built in the location of the current baseball field.

The conceptual design shows four 1,400-square-foot science labs located at the front of the new wing that could be set up for physics, chemistry or biology.

The hallway leads to a lobby in front of the 1,500-seat gym, where restrooms and a concession booth would be located.

The lobby will connect to a community fitness room, a physical education/multipurpose classroom and two large and two small locker rooms.

The gym itself will have a regulation-size basketball court and is large enough for three cross-courts. It includes an open area on the east side that could be used as a batting or pitching cage with a divider that drops down from the ceiling.

A major feature in the gym design is the inclusion of around 12 feet of open space between the bleachers and the playing surface, which McConnell said will allow room for team seating and a scorekeeper table without crowding the stands and making ingress and egress difficult.

Stensland said the design is intended to show the relationships between the spaces, but the school board will need to make decisions about how to program the spaces to meet its specific needs.

"Your concept seems to have all the spaces we've been discussing, and it's laid out quite nicely," board president Chuck Corr stated.

The design is for construction of approximately 42,000-square-feet of indoor space, but the project also calls for major work on Northeast's outdoor athletic facilities.

A new baseball field and parking area would be built west of the elementary school, and the existing softball field would be modified to meet regulation size.

A practice football field would be located north of the gym addition, and a soccer field would be built directly west of the athletic track.

Parking would be added throughout the Northeast campus, including 140 stalls around the gym and additional parking at the baseball and softball fields.

The design shows Jackson Boulevard being extending to the east to connect to Northeast's facilities, although the city of Goose Lake has not yet committed to extending the road.

Board can lower tax rate despite borrowing

Financial data presented by Matt Gillaspie of Piper Jaffray shows Northeast can borrow for the gym addition without having to increase its tax rate and actually could lower the rate despite taking on $6.5 million in debt with a bond issue.

Northeast's tax levy currently is set at $14.93 per $1,000 property valuation, and debt service makes up $3.03 of the total levy.

Northeast has $465,000 in existing debt remaining on its 1995 bond issue for construction of the elementary school, and it is scheduled to pay off that debt in 2014.

It also has $2.1 million in debt on qualified school construction bonds for the auditorium addition.

Even if a new bond issue is approved on top of existing debt, the debt service levy would drop 23 cents to $2.80 per $1,000 valuation for fiscal year 2014, according to Gillaspie, and it would continue to drop incrementally over the repayment period even if property values remain flat.

Northeast has a statutory debt limit of $15.1 million, so the district could take on debt for the gym project and still would have the ability to take on up to $5.8 million in additional debt.

An estimated debt schedule for the proposed bond issue shows Northeast theoretically could pay an additional $700,000 over the 20-year payment period if it delays the bond issue until May 2014.

The theoretical savings by issuing the bonds in 2013 comes from an assumed 1 percent increase in interest rates.

Gillaspie estimated interest rates beginning at .55 percent and growing to 2.7 percent at the end of the term, based on a recent bond issue in the Nevada school district that saw a first-year rate of just .25 percent.

A summary of the potential tax impact of the bond issue shows a resident would save $9.71 a year on a $100,000 house or $70 a year on 500 acres of land assessed at $1,200 per acre based on the projected debt service levy of $2.80 per $1,000 value.

"You might be able to fund a $6 million project and have a homeowner pay $10 less per year," Gillaspie said.

Gillaspie also presented data on a 20-year revenue and expense projection that shows Northeast can meet its current needs to replace a bus every two years and fund ongoing maintenance and technology expenses but will not have additional funding for extra projects without increasing its physical plant and equipment levy (PPEL).

Northeast currently has a board-approved PPEL levy of 33 cents, but Gillaspie encouraged board members to consider asking voters to approve an additional 67 cent levy to improve its overall financial position.

Superintendent Jim Cox said the district will hold several community meetings in which Gillaspie will review the financial scenario and answer questions prior to the bond vote.

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