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Column: No taxes for facility improvements

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With 20 campuses, 300 acres and more than 2 million square feet under roof, facility maintenance/improvement is an ongoing challenge.

Just like home maintenance/improvement, the ideal is not affordable, so we must plan and prioritize.

For the past four years, our priority has been phase one of the high school project. As you might recall, the high schools identified needs in 2008 and you supported our referendum to address the highest academic priorities, or about two-thirds of those needs. We called this phase one. The hope, then, was to have a phase two as we could afford it.

Over the past year we have revisited the high school phase two needs, and further, conducted a study of all 20 campuses in refreshing our facility master plan. As you might guess, the needs are substantial. For the next few meetings, the school board will be discussing phase two/facilities improvement.

Scope, quality and cost. You can choose any two of these three variables (scope, quality, cost) in a facilities project and the third variable will be a result of those choices. For example, if a farmer needs 2,000 square feet (scope) for storage and his budget is $30,000 (cost), then solution is a pole barn (quality). In our case we could choose the cost ($23.5 million) and the quality standard of the recently renovated high school areas, and thus how much we can build (scope) will be determined by those two choices.

Why choose $23.5 million as the cost? With both debt coming on and debt going off, this is how much we could borrow and not raise the tax rate. We could choose more or we could choose less, but this is the recommendation.

Why now? We have waited until now to move forward with the facilities improvement in an effort to manage our debt-service payments in much the same way a home owner would manage mortgage payments.

This will not raise the tax rate. The term of the bond that paid for the Northside Middle School and Schmitt Elementary additions ends this year. We have the capacity to bond $23.5 million and not raise the tax rate.

Our total school tax rate is 89 cents and it compares very favorably to other districts in the state and to our neighbors. We expect the tax rate will be 89 cents after this project is complete.

This is not a referendum. Just as you might take out a home-equity loan, the procurement method is one where we take advantage of an opportunity to extend the lease of the existing legal entity that financed Northside and Schmitt.

This is inside the property tax caps. Because it is not a referendum, the property tax caps apply. Unlike the high school referendum where the tax payment is in addition to the 1 percent homeowner cap, these payments are inside the property tax caps.

Join in the discussion. With more needs than the proposed cost will support, the art will be determining what makes the scope of the facilities project. Keeping the quality at the level that best supports learning, choices will be made over the next few school board meetings. I hope you can join us in the discussion.

My door is always open.

John Quick is superintendent of the Bartholomew Consolidated School Corp. He can be reached by phone at 376-4220 or by email at

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