Home Featured with Text School board considers putting bond off another year

School board considers putting bond off another year


The Morgan County School Board backed off plans to pursue a bond issue on the November 2016 ballot, now wanting more enrollment figures and pricing on moving portables to Mountain Green Elementary.
“We are facing tremendous growth in the district, and we are trying to figure out how to handle it teacher-wise, student-wise and building-wise,” Board President Ken Durrant said.
The board is trying to pin down the proper time to approach voters for more money that would be used to build a new middle school on district-owned property on Trappers Loop as well as an addition to Morgan High School.
Superintendent Doug Jacobs noted that if a new middle school were constructed in Mountain Green, students from that end of the county wouldn’t need to be bussed to Morgan City until they hit ninth grade.
The board also discussed a new school building for just fifth and sixth graders, just seventh and eighth graders, or even only for grades kindergarten through three.
Whatever the district decides to do, they are limited with how much money it can seek from county taxpayers: $34 million.
“We could eat that up in a hurry,” Board Member Ron Blunck said.
With several school board seats set to be on the ballot in the next 10 months, seeking a bond is a politically-charge issue, school administrators noted.
“More than half the board is up for re-election this year,” said Tim Wolff, Morgan Elementary School principal.  “A bond is a decisive or intense conversation in this community.” Placing both school board seats and a bond on the same ballot would create “one-issue candidates,” Wolff said.  “And you do much more than one issue,” he told the board at their Jan. 12 meeting.
“Your board may be different next year,” Durrant said.
Whenever the board decides to put the issue on the ballot, all agreed that the district must specifically tell voters beforehand how they intend to spend the money.  Business Administrator D’Lynn Poll said a recent bond was passed in Davis County because of such specificity, while one was turned down in Park City because of a lack of specificity.
The board asked school principals to share with them their needs in the future.  MGES Principal Heidi Andreason said her crystal ball has recently been more of a snow globe, “and there are a lot of flakes.”
Board Member Mark Farmer, who works in the finance industry, noted that some pundits have predicted an upcoming recession.  Voters finding themselves in a new recession could have a sway on their votes, he noted.
Upcoming recession or not, some board members say the time is ticking.
Several board members noted that the district would need three years after a bond is passed before a school or addition could be opened to students.  Delaying placement of the bond on the ballot this year will push that timeline out even more.
“All of our schools will be full in three years,” Jacobs said.
“In five years, we are going to be packed,” Board Member Ted Taylor said.                                                                                                                         If modular are placed at schools for the upcoming school year, the bond is passed after the November 2017 vote, then a new school would not be online until August of 2019 or January of 2020, Poll estimated.
Durrant said that building must be done with an eye to future growth so as not to open the doors of a new school when that school would already be filled to capacity.
“When we build, we need to build for the future, not open your door to a full school,” Durrant said.
The timing may be right, however, when the district pays off a substantial capital lease in 2018, Durrant noted.
By 2018, the district will pay off the capital lease that was used to finance improvements to the high school, freeing up a $400,000 annual payment.  The bond used to construct Mountain Green Elementary will be paid off in 2025.
Until the district decides to ask the voters for more money, they need to focus on three priorities: moving portables, improving the fifth grade building at Morgan Middle School, and addressing boiler problems, Jacobs said.
“We can continue to place portables as our facilities are deteriorating,” Jacobs said.  “We need to have something that drives the bond.”
Andreason said getting four portable on campus could help the school accommodate expected growth for up to three years.  A portable would also be needed at MMS by next school year.
In the meantime, Poll said putting the bond off another year will give the district time to collect date, to see how many students through eighth grade would be living in Mountain Green when a new school opens.  If there are not enough in Mountain Green, some may have to be bussed from Milton, an issue that could be a deciding factor for county voters.
“The next two years are going to be critical to see what direction our growth is going to be going,” Poll noted.  She is keeping a close eye on development in Mountain Green, the fastest growing area of the county.  “We can get a better feel for where we are going to go.”
Poll also wants time to collect quotes on relocating and remodeling portables the district already owns as compared to buying new portables at about $62,000 each.

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  1. Well that’s great with more people moving to mountain green that means much more taxes coming in for the expensive homes that are going to be there. Unbelievable how much my taxes have raised for the school district since I moved here 25 years ago. This column says there won’t be anything on the ballot in 2016 for school bonds. I’m doubtful I know they try to push that through all the time even if most are against it. How about selling that land your own on trappers loop and put it to good use for the school district. And I mean good you not like that stupid sports complex that cost millions of dollars. Think of the taxpayer’s please especially as we get older it’s ridiculous that we have to pay more and more to the school system.