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Local News

March 27, 2014

Ada City Schools voters to decide on bond issue

Ada —    Patrons of Ada City Schools will decide next week whether the district can issue $16.70 million in bonds for capital improvement projects.

   When voters go to the polls April 1, they will settle the fate of two bond issues. Two questions will appear on the ballot because bond issue proposals for transportation and construction must be handled separately.

   If voters approve both bond issues, about 88 percent of the funds would be used to finance new safe rooms, roof replacement and building renovations at school sites. The rest of the money would be spent on new buses, technology upgrades and debt service on the bonds.

The construction project and roof replacements would likely be finished within two or three years.

   In the past, the district could tap its building fund to pay for capital improvements, said Superintendent Pat Harrison. The state has reduced financial aid for schools over the last five years, forcing Harrison to supplement the district’s general fund with money from the building fund when the law allows it.

   “In so doing that, I’ve reduced our building fund to the point where I can’t do the things with our building fund that we want to do,” he said.

   Harrison spelled out the details of the bond issue for members of the Ada Rotary Club, who met on Wednesday at the Aldridge Hotel. The meeting served as a preview for the upcoming election.

Capital improvements

   The proceeds from the bond issues would generate:

   • More than $5.2 million for building safe rooms, which would double as science/technology classrooms or band/music rooms, at five school sites. The Early Childhood Center is already equipped with safe rooms.

   The classroom additions would meet Federal Emergency Management Agency standards for safe rooms, and they would be large enough    to accommodate students and staffers in case of severe weather.

   Part of the $5.2 million would be used to install secure entrances at each school, including the central office.

   • About $3.9 million to replace the roof at seven school sites.

   • About $1.8 million to renovate each school.

   • More than $760,000 to renovate athletic facilities at seven sites.

   • Roughly $500,000 to buy more buses for the district’s transportation fleet.

   • About $190,000 for instructional technology upgrades at each site.

   Harrison said the school district is trying to keep up with modern technology and put the latest devices in the hands of students at each school.

   “We could spend $1.9 million on technology,” he said. “It’s one of those things you can spend as much as you want to spend there. So $190,000 isn’t going to solve all of our needs, but it will help us get to the point where we think we need to be.”

   The remaining funds would be used to cover the debt service on the bonds, and the district would have 12 years to retire the bonds.

   If voters approve both bond issues, Ada City Schools patrons would pay an additional 78 cents for every $100 of property taxes they paid in 2013. The total annual increase would equal $9.36 for every $100 in taxes.

   The school district’s mill levy is currently set at 10.81 mills, but passage of the bond issues would raise that figure to 18.50 mills.

   Harrison said he wished the district could pay for capital improvements without raising taxes, but that was no longer possible.

   “I wish we could do it for nothing,” he said. “I don’t like an increase in taxes any more than anybody else does. But unfortunately, it’s the only means we have, like I said before, that we have to update and maintain our buildings.”

   Some observers are concerned about how the bond issues would affect their pocketbook.

   The group No Unnecessary New Taxes is not against schools or children, but many taxpayers cannot afford a tax increase in today’s economy, the group said in an ad published in Sunday’s edition of the Ada News.

   “We don’t need $16,000,000.00 plus in new taxes when the economy is bad and people are out of work,” the group said in the ad. “Many people on fixed incomes and fixed retirements can’t afford the raise in taxes.”

   The group said the school district should go back to the drawing board and reduce the size of the bond issues, paving the way for voters to approve a smaller package.

   The group’s secretary, Michael Fullingim, declined to comment Wednesday.

   Reach Eric Swanson at adanewsreporter@cableone.net.

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