Good morning Bulldog Country. As we approach the midway point of the second quarter, I thought I would share an update with you.
We continue to work behind the scenes on our labor of love, the impending construction project. I call it a labor of love because we have already overcome several obstacles, and construction hasn’t even begun yet. Our latest and greatest obstacle reared its ugly head last Wednesday when we conducted our bid opening meeting. While the meeting in and of itself went fine, the end result is what we have been worried about all along given the state of inflation and the associated high costs of essential materials and skilled labor. The project came in over budget between $375,000-$600,000.
A project being over budget by this amount of money is no small obstacle. We cannot simply borrow more money as school’s have a debt limit directly associated with the EAV of the school community. At this time, we have reached that debt limit and do not have the option to borrow more money.
We were asked by our architect if we were willing to make rather significant concessions on the design: eliminate the locker rooms, install a cheaper gym floor, etc. Our response to that question was a resounding no. This is our ‘forever’ gym. This gym will be the site of countless concerts, graduations, and athletic events for years to come. If we are going to do this project, we are going to do it right.
So what next? There is a glimmer of hope. In July, a grant for early childhood construction was released. A total of $60 million dollars will be awarded. Because the two classrooms we will be adding on will be early childhood classrooms and the additional gym will allow for our PreK Program to conduct gross motor time indoors on days when the weather does not allow for them to go outside, our construction project qualifies as an early childhood construction project. We wrote and submitted for a $3.3 million dollar grant in early September. Grant awards are slated to be announced in November. This grant opportunity gives us hope that we can secure the money we need to fill the funding gap. In the days to come if you find a lucky penny, see a shooting star, or are a believer in the power of prayer, we would appreciate your help with ‘willing’ this grant to come through for us.
What if we don’t get the grant? Then, we switch to a 2 phase construction project, phase 1, the classrooms, followed by phase 2, the gym. We move forward with the construction of the classrooms first because we are out of space, and that is our topmost priority. In the meantime, we work on securing funding to fill the gap for the gym project.
One option for funding is called the County School Facilities Sales Tax. What is the County School Facilities Sales Tax? It is a 1% sales tax on everything that is currently taxed in the municipality and county. The tax is NOT applied to: cars, trucks, ATVs, boats, RVs, mobile homes, unprepared food, drugs including over the counter drugs and vitamins, farm equipment/parts, and services. If it is NOT currently taxed, it would NOT be taxed.
Why would we support another tax? The money raised through this tax can only be spent on the following: facility improvements including additions and renovations, the refunding of bonds, school resource officers, and mental health experts. Based on the most recent sales tax revenue data from 2021, our school district would have gotten upwards of $200,000 from this sales tax revenue. That money would be an annual revenue source and would be allocated to paying off our bonds thus lowering the school tax rate in addition to completing upgrades to the facility without having to borrow money, saving the taxpayers even more money. In reality, this tax would help to lower our school tax rate while allowing for improvements to our facility. At the same time, outside visitors to Clinton County would be helping to pay for these improvements. For example, when thousands of visitors from outside Clinton County flock to Carlyle Lake every summer and make purchases at local stores, they would be helping to fund our facility improvements while also serving to lower our school tax rate. When Centralia High School hosts its annual holiday basketball tournament and visiting teams spend money at stores located in Clinton County, such as the Centralia Wal-mart, they would be helping to fund our facility improvements while also serving to lower our school tax rate.
As a taxpayer myself, I would love for my local schools to be able to make facility improvements while at the same time my real estate taxes go down. As a superintendent, I see this as a win-win. With a 1% sales tax, our school district would secure additional funding to pay off debt and make improvements to the facility (WIN) while also lowering our school tax rate (WIN).
More information about this funding opportunity will be made available to our school community in the weeks and months to come. In the meantime, we will continue to work behind the scenes to find a way to close the funding gap for our construction project.
While faced with challenges such as we have faced with this project,we must remind ourselves that all good things take time. Just like many members of our school community, we have our heart set on seeing this project through and will do everything possible to make it happen. Please trust that as a school district we are working diligently behind the scenes to be fiscally responsible while working to ensure that the future needs of our school district are being met.
With Bulldog pride,