Archive for Thursday, December 7, 2006

School plans emerging: $40 million figures to handle future school needs

December 7, 2006

Eudora USD 491 officials admit $40 million is a big number.

"Any time you say $40 million to anybody their eyes are going to pop open," school board President Ken Massey said.

The board has started working through the process that is expected to produce language in February for a bond issue of that amount. The bond issue would likely go to voters in November.

Eudora Superintendent Marty Kobza said when it was first suggested that $40 million in school improvements be included in the bond issue some board members blanched. But he said additional information made them comfortable with the amount.

Not all the items in the bond issue are to be built at once, Kobza said. The phased approach will allow the district to spread out its added debt and, thus, manage its affect on the mill levy.

"Our financial advisers have been right on the mark," board member Brenda Clark said. "When they came and spoke to the board, they said for everything the district would like for $40 million phased in over several periods, there shouldn't be any change to the mill levy. We wouldn't be hitting taxpayers with excessive costs."

Kobza said the board purposely delayed acting on a new bond issue so current debt could be retired.

"We have some facilities that we have to work around rather than enhance our academic programs," he said. "Our staff has done a great job in modifying our programs to make them work."

Now, they must catch up while it looks ahead to future needs, Kobza said.

The bond issue phase in would address the catch-up needs first by providing new classrooms at the elementary and middle school levels, Kobza said. At the elementary school level, that could mean one large 1,000-student enrollment capacity school for first- through fifth-graders.

"If we move into a new elementary, we would be moving into a new building in the fall of 2009."

The elementary school would be the most expensive item in the bond package. Although item-by-item estimates won't be developed until February, the elementary school of that enrollment capacity would cost from $15 million to $20 million, Kobza said.

Crafting a phased-in bond issue to consider future needs would be new to Eudora but is common in Johnson County districts.

Kobza said it was a logical way to plan for growth in an already growing district, which could see accelerated growth with developments such as the redevelopment of the Sunflower Army Ammunition Plant, the Burlington Northern Santa Fe Railroad's planned intermodal at Gardner and possible link from Kansas Highway 10 to the Kansas Turnpike passing through or near Eudora.

The district's largest single grade level now totals 122 students, Kobza said. The projects discussed for inclusion in the bond issue would provide for 200 students per grade level.

"We're not trying to solve just today's problems," he said. "We're trying to solve capacity problems for a number of years.

"We're going to see a continued pattern of growth. If anything, it's going to accelerate."

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