Posted: Oct. 22, 2014 10:21 pm Updated: May. 13, 2015 6:18 pm
By EDWARD HUSAR
Herald-Whig Staff Writer
The $89 million bond issue appearing on the Nov. 4 election ballot dominated the discussion at Wednesday night's Quincy School Board meeting.
George Crickard, chairman of the Committee for Building Quincy's Schools, provided an update on the committee's efforts to share information with the community about the referendum. Committee members have made dozens of presentations to local groups and organizations and have also been mounting a door-to-door campaign.
Crickard reported that a site near South Park -- and not far from Quincy Notre Dame
High School -- that was being looked at as a possible location for a K-5 elementary school in the southwest part of Quincy has been removed from consideration. Crickard said the school district's administrative team decided to step back from considering that location after QND officials expressed a desire to keep that site available for their own possible future use.
"I think we should respect those wishes," Crickard said.
Several School Board members agreed, saying the public schools should work hand-in-hand with the parochial schools whenever possible.
"I want to do what's best for the community as a whole," board member Scott Stone said.
"We've been working together (with the Catholic schools) for years. We want to continue to do that," board member Jeff Mays said.
One action taken by the board involved passing a resolution outlining how the district would use the operational savings and proceeds from the sale of unneeded property if voters approve the bond issue. The resolution says the board would use those savings and proceeds to help pay for future maintenance and "life-safety" work at several existing schools not directly benefiting from the bond issue.
If voters approve the bond issue, the district would sell $89 million in bonds to build five new elementary schools serving grades K-5 along with an addition and extra classrooms at Quincy High School -- all without having to increase the district's current tax levy. If voters defeat the bond issue, the district would be forced to carry out an estimated $66 million in "life-safety" improvements to existing schools over the next 20 years.
If the issue passes, the district could avoid spending about $50 million of that proposed life-safety work. That would leave about $16 million in life-safety repairs still needed at several buildings remaining in use, including Quincy High School, Quincy Junior High, the Early Childhood and Family Center and portions of Baldwin Intermediate School.
Stone said the Quincy Area Chamber of Commerce sent the district a letter asking for details on how the $16 million in remaining life-safety repairs would be financed, since it's not part of the $89 million bond issue.
The resolution expresses the board's intent not to sell any additional bonds to pay for the $16 million worth of work. The district instead would tap into revenue from the district's 5-cent fire prevention tax levy, which generates between $400,000 and $500,000 a year for life-safety purposes. In addition, some of the life-safety costs would be offset by the operational savings from closing several buildings along with the revenue from selling any buildings no longer needed.
"This is to clarify our position should the referendum pass," Stone said.
Board member Sheldon Bailey supported the resolution. "I'm very much in favor of it because it does lay out without question what we intend to do with those savings," he said.
Mays said "there are no savings" if the bond issue gets defeated, because the district would "just keep plowing more into the same buildings."
Board President Stephanie Erwin also spoke in support of the resolution, but she noted that "we cannot bind future boards" to the intentions spelled out in the document.
Melvin "Bud" Niekamp cast the only vote against the resolution. He has opposed the tax issue from the beginning, saying he believes Quincy doesn't need so many new schools.