USD 333 bond issue goes to voters

By Jessica LeDuc
Blade staff writer

 Voters in USD 333 will head to the polls on Tuesday to determine the fate of a $5.5 million bond issue.
 On the ballot will be the question:
"Shall Unified School District No. 333, Cloud County, Kansas (Concordia), issue general obligation bonds in an amount not to exceed $5.5 million, to pay the estimated costs to (a) construct, equip and furnish an addition and improvements to the Concordia Elementary School building, including classrooms, server room and restrooms, constructed to FEMA storm shelter standards; (b) purchase, acquire and install energy conservation measures, including HVAC replacement and improvements to the Concordia Elementary School building, and lighting and other improvements at other existing district buildings."
 At an October informational meeting, Superintendent Bev Mortimer said the $5.5 million bond issue for 20 years includes $2.89 million for the HVAC replacement and energy upgrades and $2.37 for the FEMA safe room. The total project is estimated to cost $5.26 million, but the requested $5.5 million bond will cover any contingencies and financing fees. If the project is less than $5.5 million, the USD 333 school board could authorize the issuance of bonds in a lesser amount.
 The bond would be financed by 3.97 mills. Mortimer said only two of those mills would be "new." The current bond and interest mill levy for the district is 1.97, which is being used to pay off the bonds used to construct the elementary school in 1996.
 If the bond issue passes, the district will be eligible for 40 percent state aid to help pay for the construction.
 The district could move forward with the projects even if the bond election fails, but would receive no state aid, and 100 percent of the project would be funded through local property taxes. With the state aid, Mortimer said, the mill levy would be 3.976. Without state aid, it would be 6.626.
If the bond election passes, the increase in taxes on a $75,000 home would be $17.25 a year, or $1.44 a month. An owner of a $200,000 business, would pay $100 more a year, and a farmer with 160 acres of dry cropland would see an increase of $19.01 a year.
 The proposed design of the FEMA shelters is approximately 7,299 square feet and will feature four classrooms, restrooms, storage and a computer server rooms. A safe room is a hardened structure specifically designed to meet FEMA criteria and provide near-absolute protection in extreme weather events, including tornadoes. Currently CES is the only building in the district without a storm shelter area.
 Mortimer said the shelter would also be available for use by the community, especially those who are at the Sports Complex and Fairgrounds during the summer months.
In addition to the FEMA shelter, the bond issue would also fund the replacement of the HVAC system at the elementary school.
 At Tuesday night's Cloud County Community College board of trustees meeting, Mortimer said the system is in dire need of replacement. In the summer of 2007, mold was discovered, and has been a constant battle to keep it at bay since then.
"The HVAC system doesn't control humidity and moisture like it should," she said. "We spend a lot of money now making sure that mold doesn't come back. We're never going to resolve the issue until we replace the system."
 The CES system is a two-pipe design, and costs more per square foot to operate than any other building in the district. The current system doesn't regulate temperature or humidity correctly, and temperatures can vary up to ten degrees across the building. A new four-pipe system will allow heating and cooling to take place at the same time.
 Mortimer said district maintenance staff spend countless hours repairing and maintaining the system, as well as conducting air quality tests to ensure mold doesn't reappear.
 In addition to the elementary school's HVAC replacement, the bond issue also includes other district lighting upgrade, meter consolidation, HVAC replacement at the Junior-Senior High School's technical education building, and replacing the lights at the football field.
 Polls open at 7 a.m. Tues., Nov. 5, and will close at 7 p.m. Those who can cast ballots in the election, and their polling places are as follows:
Voters residing in the city of Aurora and USD 333 voters of Aurora and Nelson Township will vote at Knights of Columbus Hall, Aurora; voters in city of Jamestown, USD 333 voters of Grant and Summit Townships, and USD 333 voters of Jewell County will vote at Jamestown Downtown Activity Building; USD 333 voters of Arion, Center and Lyon Townships, USD 333 voters of North Lawrence Precinct, all USD 333 voters of south Lawrence Precinct and east and west Lincoln Precincts, Buffalo and Sibley Townships, 1st Ward, Concordia, 2nd Ward, 1st Precinct, Concordia, 2nd Ward, 2nd Precinct, Concordia, 3rd Ward, Concordia, 4th Ward Concordia, and USD 333 voters of Republic County will vote at First Christian Church Fellowship Hall in Concordia.

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