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South Central School Board to Continue Investigating Grant Issue

By Bruce Kropp, WJBD News

The South Central School Board wants to further investigate a ten-million dollar state grant that would allow for additions to both the grade and high school.  In order to get the state money, the school district would have to come up with a three-million dollar local share.  Superintendent Rick Bachelor says the district has the bonding authority to cover the local share of the project without having to have a referendum.   He reports the resulting property tax increase would be just a few cents higher than a few years ago before some of the district's bonds were retired.   

The plans include an eight room addition and multi-purpose room at the grade school in Kinmundy and an eight room addition and cafeteria at the high school in Farina.  The board was in agreement to the need for the improvements, but were concerned over the state's finances and how that could impact the district and the project in the future.  

The school board asked Bachelor to set up a meeting with the company that would handle the issuance of the bonds.   

"We're gonna look at the numbers: what its going to cost the district, how its going to affect us down the road, and then try to make an educated decision at that point" Bachelor said. 

Bachelor hopes the meeting can be set up sometime next week.  If the information is favorable, an informational meeting will be held for district residents.   

Bachelor says there is no doubt of the need of the projects.

"At the very least, we need that grade school project. Because we are crowded at that age level. We would like to have those classrooms and then move the 5th grade back down there where they really belong. And the situation with the high school is dire with the center portion maybe deteriorating. At some point the district is going to do something about it. Either now, with state money, or later on with district funds." Bachelor said.

The state grant would pay for 72-percent of the cost of the project at the high school and 75-percent at the grade school.

The district's architect, William Reichert III with EWR Associates, Incorporated, doesn't anticipate another school construction grant program in at least the near future.

School Board Member Tom Turner was concerned if the district was sticking its neck out by starting a project dependent on state financing.  Bachelor says that hasn't been an issue in other districts.  Reichert says the bonds for the projects have been issued and they are dedicated only to the school projects.  

Reichert anticipates the construction on the additions to take about 15 months to complete.  He encouraged the district to look at occupancy at the start of the 2015-2016 school year.    

Bachelor says if the state forces consolidation in the future, the improvements might help keep attendance centers within the district.   However, he notes the state has been talking about consolidation the past 35 years and are no further along now than they were when they started.   

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