Expansion & renovation projects begin
The Sherrard school board approved the 2022 tax levy in a 5-2 vote during the Dec. 17 board meeting. The district levied $4.0359 - a two cent tax increase over last year’s tax rate of $4.0159. The move is still four cents below the year prior for district homeowners.
According to Superintendent Alan Boucher, the total tax revenues the district is projected to get is $7,527,494, $37,303 more than if the board voted to levy the same rate.
“We’re one of the lowest tax rates of all the K-12 school districts around us,” said Boucher. He said the amount levied has decreased by 24 cents since 2016.
Boucher explained what the tax levy means for taxpayers, “The tax rate is applied to the equalized assessed value (EAV) which represents one-third of the assessed property value. To calculate the school portion of your property taxes, multiply the tax rate by the EAV and divide by 100.”
This year’s EAV of all properties combined in the district is projected to be 186 million - a 2.76% increase (an increase of 5 million dollars) from last year’s 181 million dollar valuation.
During the lively debate on the matter, the board was torn between keeping the levy at the same rate, and raising it to prepare for raises, an increase in the cost of supplies, and the loss of federal dollars. The federal ESSER fund (Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief Fund) will stop in two years.The district is set to receive a total of $2,670,036 between all three of the ESSER grants.
The two dissenting votes were cast by Rhys Fullerlove and Sue Lyon, those in favor were Kim DeBlock, Dan Helm, Troy Wolford, John Cabor, Cassandra Cleaveland.
The board also unanimously approved the process to restructure bonds at a lower interest rate for projects throughout the district earlier last year.
The bonds, prior to restructuring, had a remaining balance of $2.6 million. It was issued in 2014 for various construction projects. The new bond total is 11.1 million and will be paid off in 14 years. According to Superintendent Alan Boucher, the payment (i.e., tax rate) will remain the same and actually decrease as the equalized assessed values increase.
“Because we’re restructuring and extending it out - we will be able to do quite a number of construction projects throughout the district, most are maintenance related,” said Boucher.
First Midstate Inc. investment banker David Pistorius said they found interest savings for the district that takes off two years of payback time. He said because the equalized assessed value has had an average 4% growth over the last five years they included a 2% “growth factor”.
“By putting this 2% growth factor in here it allows us to move more principle of the bonds up earlier in the payback,” he said. The move means the district will pay off the bond in 14 years instead of 16 as originally planned.
The bond will pay for the replacement of five roofs, rooftop HVAC equipment At Winola Elementary, windows at Matherville Intermediate and Sherrard Elementary - as well as a large addition on Sherrard Elementary, locker replacement at the junior/senior high school, carpet replacement in hallways at JH/SH, science room renovations at the high school level, a greenhouse at HS, and renovating one set of bathrooms at the high school.
Of the bonds, Pistorius said, “We had tremendous local participation. There were several banking institutions that purchased these bonds locally. That’s a good thing. It was probably about 6.2 million of the issue was purchased locally. That’s pretty big.
When we went out to other folks after we exhausted the local scene, these got gobbled up really fast. It was probably 30 seconds, maybe a minute we had 4-5 responses once we sent it out, that’s how quick it went. That’s because of your financial profile and the quality of the district. It all speaks well,” he said.
One major project funded by the bond is an expansion for Sherrard Elementary by 15,000 square feet. The addition includes a gymnasium, two classrooms, two conference room areas, two offices, and a set of restrooms. The estimated project budget totals $6.7 million.
Boucher said the current building doesn’t have enough room, “As it stands, at Sherrard Elementary, the gym and the cafeteria are the same room… We want the art teacher and music teacher to have a separate space to deliver their lessons, we want the ‘before and after school’ program to have an area they can utilize.”
He said adding conference rooms and offices will help students receive services from specialized therapists, “We have many support specialists who need to deliver therapy to their students including social workers, physical therapists, speech therapists, guidance counselors, and Title 1 teachers who all need rooms in which to get their work done. The building was constructed in the 1950’s, and none of those services were available or existed… with this addition, we’ll be able to have adequate space.”
Scott Johnson, Richard L Johnson Associates architecture firm, said construction could begin by June this year, with a June 2023 projected completion date.
Work to convert one set of restrooms at the junior/senior high school, across from gym two, into four single-use bathrooms began in December and is projected to be completed by the end of January. Approved in October, Precision Builders out of Bettendorf, Iowa, was the low bid at $186,000.