The overriding consensus of public comments at a meeting Wednesday night of USD 364 patrons was to provide as much tax relief as possible, and then prioritize additional recommended improvements with remaining funds. Input was sought by Superintendent Bill Mullins, and several board members in attendance, who are dealing with a matter of four to five million dollars in bond money issued for school improvements, that is now available as interest rates came in lower than expected, and nearly all construction bids have been below estimates.
Since the total $25.9 million in bonds have already been issued, it is unlikely that the district can redeem the long-term obligations early. Various means may allow some measure of tax relief, in using the funds as a reserve against actual tax collections if they would fall short, shifting some projects to capital outlay, and repaying portions of the principal and interest on current debt. Bill Mullins estimated that a total of one to two million dollars could be used as such. He emphasized that the remaining three million dollars must be spent, or earmarked within a roughly eighteen-month period following completion of the current construction, expected perhaps late this year.
The board had considered various options, including a new ag complex attached to the main building, south of the new gymnasium, with the current metal buildings likely being razed to allow for parking. Estimated cost would range from $1.9 to $2.4 million.
Projects started include replacing the freezer/cooler at the jr./sr. high, replace and enhance HVAC for the music rooms and library, and updating a new office complex for the jr./sr. high. It was pointed out that since the bonds have been issued, with a payment schedule, there would be no impact to the mill levy.
Efforts to maintain the mill levy are a consideration going forward, as capital outlay was assigned to a number of smaller projects considered. This fund collects around $700,000 annually. This might include auditorium updates, completing remaining stadium improvements, consideration of resurfacing the track, and expanding from six to eight lanes to accommodate high school meets, and others.
Asked for a straw poll show of hands as to how many wanted tax relief, perhaps one third to one half of the fifty or so in attendance responded. Several people pointed out that any future bond issues would be a tough sell, and it would be good to consider additional improvements while costs could be maintained, with contractors on site, and work in progress. Any additional construction would likely be targeted for next summer. A timeline for a board decision is not known, and it may be several months in the making. Bill Mullins did impress that he and the board have a plan going forward for the district, and he is pleased with the progress.