Archive for Thursday, December 18, 2008

Economy stymies USD 491 projects

December 18, 2008

The floundering economy continues to hinder Eudora USD 491’s construction projects.

At Thursday’s board of education meeting, Steve Shogren, the district’s bond council, told the board that there were no bids on an $11.25 million bond.

Although as many as four bidders showed interest, an obscure state statute chased off many bidders, Shogren said. The statute states the interest a lender pays to a bond recipient cannot be more than 3 percent higher than the 10-year treasury rate, which is now at a 50-year low.

As a result, the district will attempt to issue a $12 million temporary note to keep construction projects at the new elementary school and the Eudora Middle School going.

Shogren said the hope is that the market will slightly improve in the spring and the district can again look to sell bonds.

Shogren told the board it is not in a unique position, as fear in the marketplace has slowed other construction projects funded by municipal bonds.

“It gets frustrating because it seems like every time I turn around somebody says, ‘Well, this is a first,’ and it certainly complicates the process,” Superintendent Don Grosdidier said. “But we’ve decided to keep moving forward on the projects and try not to get bogged down on the hurdles.”

The board was told more potentially bad news when Rob Schwarz, of RSP Associates, said enrollment projections for the 2009-2010 school year were flat, with a possibility of a zero- to 10-student increase.

The projection was based on the lack of job growth in Eudora, the lack of resolution to the city’s lawsuit with Douglas County Rural Water District, No. 4 and the lack of new home starts — just 12 this year, up three from last year’s nine new starts.

Schwarz was three students off of his projection for this year.

“He’s been extremely accurate in the years we’ve used him,” Grosdidier said.

The soonest the district will be able to get a feel for where number will be for the next school year will be at this spring’s kindergarten round-up.

“We cannot plan a budget for 2010 based on the growth we saw this year,” Grosdidier said.

Grosdidier told the board it had “seen nothing but clouds tonight,” and Board President Kenny Massey said the board likely would re-evaluate the 2008-2009 budget and do a values assessment after the first of the year.

Massey also stressed transparency to district staff, which Grosdidier said will also be carried over to the community.

“The best way to weather any storm is to weather it together,” he said. “I think to make sure everyone is on the same page and can weather the storm together, we have to be transparent about funds we have coming in and where those funds are going.”

In other actions, the council:

• Approved the procedure for parents to opt to have students not participate in any part of the curriculum. Parent signatures on opt-out forms must be notarized.

• Agreed to notify Universal Construction and engineering firm DLR that neither company will be used in the design or construction of the district stadium.

The board instead will use one of three companies that specialize in building stadiums. The move likely will reduce the cost of the stadium, which is set to open in August 2010.

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