By Greg Bird
The McCreary County Board of Education voted Thursday night to begin steps toward replacing the roofs at McCreary Central High School and Pine Knot Elementary Building 1.
The roofs, long in need of repair or replacement, were the subjects of much scrutiny last year when the Board attempted to pass an additional tax to pay for the work.
The Board hoped to finance the roof work, and an expansion at the middle school through the passage of a nickel tax. The tax would have generated about $260,000 in additional revenue for the District that would have been dedicated to the construction fund and allocated for the three projects. Additionally, the state would have provided a nearly 3-1 match, garnering about $750,000 in additional funding for the construction.
The tax was protested by citizens and subjected to a public recall election last fall. Voters overwhelmingly rejected the proposal for an additional tax and defeated the measure.
This year the Kentucky legislature removed the matching funding for such a tax, so another attempt at passing a nickel tax would not benefit the school district as it would have last year.
Part of the reason for the attempt at the tax was a lack of bonding capacity by the District at the time. Due to prior debts, the Board had the ability to finance only about $1 million in bonds.
But that capacity has since risen.
Thursday night Joe Nance, of Ross Sinclair, noted the Board’s bonding capacity has increased over the past two years due to a new state budget and reduction in existing dept owed by the District,
Nance informed the Board that about $4.5 million in bonding capacity exists, allowing the Board to consider selling bonds to pay for the roof replacements, while still maintaining a comfortable margin in case of unforeseen expenses. Additionally, more debt is slated to be paid off within the next four years, providing about $6 million more in bonding potential for projects in the future.
The estimated cost for the high school roof project would be about $2.4 million, while the Pine Knot work would be about $1 million. All together, along with contingencies and other costs, about $3.5 million would need to be bonded.
The roofs over the newest wing of the high school, and over part of the academic wings were installed in 2006, and should not need any work done. That could lower the overall cost.
However, the Board members were concerned about the flat roof at the school, noting such a design allows water to pool on the roof, causing potential problems. They asked that one of the architect’s proposals include installing a sloped roof as well as the flat so they could compare costs.
Superintendent Michael Cash noted that if the roofs at the two buildings are replaced, all schools within the District would have had new roofs installed in recent years, allowing the Board to focus on other projects.
The two projects are first in line according to the District’s 5-year improvement plan, which was refined and released last year. A third top-priority project, the construction of a new wing at McCreary County Middle School would be the next major building plan once the roofing project is underway.
The Board voted unanimously to approve submitting a BG-1, a project application form, to the Kentucky Department of Education. Once the project is approved the Board can begin the process by hiring an architect, issuing the bonds and bidding out the construction.
Superintendent Cash also noted enrollment has increased within the District for the past two years, indicating the expansion at the middle school may soon become an urgent need to accommodate the students and allow for expansion of the pre-school program.
In other Board news Thursday the Board approved authorizing the Kentucky School Board Association (KSBA) to represent their interests before the Public Service Commission (PSC), and to reimburse the association $347 as their share of the costs. The KSBA has been representing school districts across the state as they lobby the PSC to prevent utility companies from raising electric rates that would impact the districts.
On a related note, Board member Deborah Gibson has been named the Chair of the KSBA Upper Cumberland Region, and is the first member of the Board of Education to sit on the committee. Gibson and the District will be hosting the fall regional meeting next Tuesday at the High School, where representatives from over 60 districts will attend. The Board also honored McCreary Central High School for their recent accomplishment being named one of the best high schools in the country by the U.S. News and World Report and Finance Director Bill Boyd.
Finally, Superintendent Cash noted interim Kentucky Commissioner of Education Dr. Wayne Lewis is planning a visit to the school district in the near future to tour the facilities and meet with staff.
The next regular scheduled meeting of the McCreary County Board of Education will be on Thursday, September 27 at 6:30 p.m. in the Central Office.