Board to discuss what comes after Prop P is completed
By MIKE ANTHONY
What comes after the Mehlville School District's Proposition P districtwide building improvement program is com-pleted in 2005 is one of the topics the Board of Education will discuss during a two-day retreat this week.
The retreat is scheduled to take place Friday evening and Saturday morning at Forder Elementary School, 623 W. Ripa Ave.
South Area Superintendent Tim Ricker, who will succeed retiring Superintendent John Cary on July 1, and Board of Education President Cindy Christopher told the Call they have had preliminary discussions about what comes after Proposition P is completed and intend to raise the issue for discussion at the retreat.
"And really what the question is: What's next?,'' Ricker said. "We're at a point in time where we need to think about (Continued from Page 1A)
the finalization of the proposed five-year project and then what do we do next? What are options, what are needs, what our community would think about that. So we've just really talked about considering that as a part of long-range planning and we were going to include that in part of our observation at our retreat with the Board of Educa-tion and the administrative team.''
The community engagement process utilized by district to formulate Proposition P identified needs totaling more than $150 million, Ricker said. "... There were a lot of other projects that were identified,'' he said, noting that the $150 million in needs that were identified has in-creased because of inflation. "Those are the issues that we need to kind of sit around with the seven members of the board and talk about what the next steps might be and how we would want to engage the community in that conversation and see what the conversation brings us.''
The community engagement process utilized to formulate Proposition P included the formation of a Citizens' Advisory Committee for Facilities. That process included 13 meetings of the CACF, which was comprised of more than 100 members, and two meetings at each of the district's 17 buildings. At the building-level meetings, residents prioritized the critical needs at each building.
Those priorities then were presented to the CACF, which considered the needs of each of the 17 buildings as well as districtwide issues in formulating its final recommendation. Ultimately, about 3,500 people were involved in formulating a recommendation to the school board for a $70.2 million bond issue to address the district's needs. The board trimmed two items from the CACF's recommendation and voted to place Proposition P, a nearly $68.4 million bond issue, on the November 2000 ballot.
After voters approved a 49-cent tax-rate increase to fund Proposition P, the school board elected to issue bond-like certificates of participation to fund the improvements increased the construction budget to $72.4 million.
Though the approved budget is $72.4 million, the final cost of the improvements and related projects could total more than $86 million through June 30, 2008. Current estimates indicate the 49-cent tax-rate increase will generate nearly $26 million more over 20 years than is required to retire bond-like certificates of participation issued to fund the Proposition P improvements. However, one scenario for funding Proposition P cost overruns and the costs of related projects estimates that more than $13.6 million of that nearly $26 million would be spent by June 30, 2008.
In an April 10 memorandum to John Cary, Randy Charles, assistant superintendent for finance and the district's chief financial officer, addresses the additional funds the 49-cent tax-rate increase will generate.
In his memo, Charles recommends, "Throughout completion of Proposition P, we should continue to use these funds to cover unexpected costs created by code requirements and/or hidden conditions.''
He also recommends, "As we approach the conclusion of Proposition P construction, I would respectfully suggest that we reconvene the CACF or a similar committee to review district needs at that point in time and to recommend the proper course of action related to these available funds.''
However, both Ricker and Christopher told the Call that they believe the community engagement process should begin before construction is completed on Proposition P.
Ricker said, "Well, I think we don't want to lose momentum ...''
Christopher interjected, "But I think you would have to do it before the end ... You could wait until the very end, I'm not sure it would be the wisest way to handle that. I think you could probably look at that ahead of, like a year or year-and-half out, which is about what we're looking right now and just explore and see what still is glaring that needs to be improved upon because I think there's still a lot of needs out there. There were a lot of things that were identified from the beginning that got cut that people were openly upset about ... But I think most people understood we couldn't do everything and it would be great to be able to, but it just wasn't financially possible. So we did what we thought were the biggest things and earmarked those. So I do think there's still a lot of other needs out there that we need to go back and look at.''
Ricker said, "I think you're working on first things first. The first things are making sure we have a planning cycle to take care of the remainder of the projects. I think we're about there based on our estimates of the completion of the existing projects. We're 80-plus percent, once we let the bids go for Oakville Elementary, so now's about the time to see where we go as far as the schedule on the rest of the projects, which we feel pretty comfortable with, but now's the time to start to think about at the end of those projects, what will we do next and not leave a long span of time in between that and whatever else we want to do based on engaging people and finding out what their thoughts are, looking, asking the board's direction, obviously, and including people in that conversation.''
Christopher said, "At this point in time, four 'years-ish' out, a lot of the same people are still in the district. What happens over time is it takes a student 13 years to go through, so if you wait too long, then some of those same people who have already been through the process and understand it and can easily kind of step into it, you don't have to do as much explaining to them for the whole process even, can step back in and re-identify needs and it makes it a little bit simpler from I guess the organizational standpoint of the whole thing.''
Ricker said, "And to see if the issues have shifted, see if the priorities are the same or if they've shifted. They could very well be the same, but time has elapsed from the prioritization to now and are those actually the next set of priorities?''
Christopher said, "Or has something all of a sudden be-come a glaring problem or need that we hadn't identified before?''
Ricker said, "So that's part of our conversation for the retreat.''