D29 seeks $445,100 bond to fund projects

The Williston District 29 School Board heard a proposal for a $445,100 general obligation bond to fund capital projects.

During the Jan. 16 board meeting, D29 Finance Director Rose Anderson said the district’s millage rate will remain the same, so taxpayers will not see a tax increase to fund the bond. The bond will be paid back with the debt service fund.

Ronnie Neville, the district’s maintenance supervisor, provided the board with an overview of the projects and estimates of the costs, although those could change once bids come in from contractors.

The two most expensive projects cost $100,000 each, including a new 78-passenger activity bus. The other project is split between upgrading the old and obsolete PA (public address) systems in all schools and purchasing their own phone lines. Neville said they had been using the e-rate program to absorb half the cost of their phone bill, but that program is ending in 2018-2019. Owning their own phone lines will allow the district to sustain the amount currently funded by e-rate by decreasing their bill by approximately 50 percent.

They also want to install security vestibules at all three schools to improve security at a cost of approximately $65,500. Other projects include replacing HVAC units ($40,000), buying a new firewall and additional Chromebooks ($15,000), retiling the middle school cafeteria floor that is rotting and buckling ($11,920), replacing rotten overhangs at Kelly Edwards Elementary and the canteen entrance ($19,000), purchasing certified playground mulch for the elementary school to give the proper height required by code ($6,000), purchasing floor equipment ($15,000), and repairs to the maintenance equipment shed ($3,600). They are also budgeting $5,500 for roads for the bus area because the asphalt is failing in areas due to fuel spillage, oil spillage and sharp turns by buses, said Neville. The district also wants to fulfill a requirement from the State Department of Education to install 6-foot-tall fencing around the bus parking lot to provide security and safety at a cost of $17,000.

A contingency of $46,580 is also included in the list of projects in case some projects cost more than estimated, such as was the case with the middle school roof project last year. If the contingency is not needed, Anderson said they will come back and discuss what other projects they can fund or whether the board wishes to hold the money for when it’s needed.

The bond resolution will be adopted in February to allow the bonds to be sold in April and the money to be available over the summer.

Finance

Anderson also provided a few other financial updates, including monthly financials for December. Revenue came in at $459,587.61 while expenditures totaled $739,546.42. While revenue is usually higher this time of the school year, Anderson said “tax revenue is being pushed down very slowly to the districts.” Due to changes in the county treasurer’s office, which collects taxes and distributes revenue to the school districts, Anderson said they are working with the treasurer’s office very closely. She said they are not the only district in this situation.

The Community Eligibility Provision (CEP) program the district started last year is going “very well,” said Anderson. The program provides free lunches to all students in districts with at least a 40 percent poverty rate. District 29 has a rate of 51 percent currently. Districts then get reimbursed by the U.S. Department of Agriculture for the cost of the meals.

Anderson said federal revenue for meal reimbursements is up 17 percent. Revenue for September through November 2017 totaled $195,350.08 compared to $167,036.69 for the same three-month period the previous year.

Calendar

Interim Superintendent Dr. Everette Dean Jr. updated the board on the calendar for next school year.

“The proposed calendars are very similar,” he said of the county’s three school districts.

The main difference is the week of spring break. While Barnwell District 19 in Blackville wanted spring break the week after Easter, District 29 and Barnwell District 45 want it the week before. Since Easter is later next year, Dean said having spring break before Easter will give students a break earlier and also provide at least a week to prepare for tests.

He said they are waiting to see if the state legislature will allow districts to start the school year one week earlier, which would allow them to get an entire semester in before Christmas break.

In other news:

• Debra McCord, the director of curriculum, instruction and accountability, said elementary and middle school students are taking second nine week benchmark tests. Teachers will then review data and focus on any remediation needs.

• In recognition of School Board Appreciation Month, board members received a number of gifts from the schools. High school student Danielle Edwards gave each member a painting she created.

• The board signed the Ethical Principles poster.

• The district’s special services department recently earned 100 percent on three indicators as part of its reporting calendar, said Dr. Tasha Louis-Nance, the director of student and special services. Districts are graded on various indicators at different times throughout the year.

• No action was taken following a closed session where the board discussed employment matters.