District 202 should issue $4 million in bonds for capital improvements in 2012, and again in 2014, Chief Financial Officer William Stafford told the Board at its most recent Finance Committee meeting, just in order to keep up with building maintenance needs. He also said that operating expenses and revenues for FY 2012 are in line with expectations so far.
Mr. Stafford proposed a hearing in February for the first set of bonds, which if approved, would authorize the bond issue in March.
“We couldn’t have picked a better time [to issue bonds],” he said. “The bond rates are the lowest I have seen in my entire career.”
Mr. Stafford said the money would be spent on the basics: bricks, windows, HVAC and roofs.
In particular, Mr. Stafford cited Field house floor and bathrooms, cooling tower, tower-area roofs, special education area ceiling and floors and auditorium upgrades as major priorities.
“How do you set the priorities?” asked Board member Rachel Hayman. “Do you have a committee?”
Mr. Stafford said there used to be a more open process for requesting projects for capital improvement funding, but because of limited money available this approach created “false expectations.”
“A lot of prioritization has to do with keeping the building so it doesn’t leak,” Mr. Stafford said, underscoring the challenges faced by the District given what the CFO described as its 1.2 million square foot building on a 60-acre campus.
“Which is the highest priority?” asked Board member Deborah Graham.
Mr. Stafford cited the HVAC system. “People have to have clean air to breathe,” he said.
Future projects to be funded by a bond issue in 2014 would include new configurations for science labs, to allow for more computers and increased group work; locker room renovations; data center renovations; resurfacing and better fan accommodations for the Lake Street tennis complex; and “possibly” a new student center, Mr. Stafford proposed.
Superintendent Dr. Eric Witherspoon underscored the dire needs of the District’s building and facility against the funds available.
“All of us would have loved to have built a new field house,” Dr. Witherspoon said. Several years ago such a plan was proposed at a cost of $20 million. “But we have to deal with realities. The roof [of the field house] was in such bad shape that the structure was disintegrating.”
The roof was replaced last year, Mr. Stafford said, and Ms. Graham emphasized the need for continued work. “The floor is unusable,” she said.
On a positive note, the District’s operating expenses and revenues are in line with expectations, Mr. Stafford reported, in conjunction with District financial policies, which require a mid-year budget review.
“Revenue collections are ahead of last year, due mainly to the fact this year’s property tax collections were two months ahead of the prior years,” according to Mr. Stafford’s report. “As has been the case for some time, the state continues to be over $1.1 million behind in its distribution of already vouchered state funds that are due to the District.”
Mr. Stafford explained that historically, expenditures [at the end of December] are less than half of the total for the year because more than half of the school year is still to come.
The Education Fund, which makes up more than 70 percent of the budget, has received 43.38 percent of its revenues and is “right on schedule at 45.82 percent of budget at the mid-year mark, slightly above last year’s 44.30 percent level.”