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Newspaper continues review of Proposition P history


December 14, 2005 - As the Mehlville Board of Education considers the final revision to the Proposition P districtwide building improvement program budget, the Call continues its review of the history of the project that dates back to late 1999.

A recommendation to increase the Proposition P districtwide building improvement program budget to more than $89.1 million is scheduled to be considered today — Dec. 15 — by the Mehlville Board of Educa-tion.

Voters in November 2000 approved Proposition P, a nearly $68.4 million bond issue funded by a 49-cent tax-rate increase.

However, the Board of Education voted in November 2004 to approve a revised Proposition P budget totaling $88,927,440. The recommendation being considered today, if approved, would increase the Proposition P budget to $89,137,440 — a roughly 30.3 percent in-crease — more than $20.7 million — over the nearly $68.4 million building improvement program envisioned in 2000.

The second installment of the chronology of the Proposition P districtwide building improvement program, based on district documentation and published accounts in the Call, picks up in January 2000:

January 2000 — A "dry run'' of up-coming neighborhood meetings planned in the Mehlville School District that was conducted by the Citizens' Advisory Committee for Facilities was an unqualified success, according to the panel's chairman.

Nearly 120 people participated in the meeting at Oakville Elementary School.

"We think the 'dry run' at Oakville El-ementary was a real success and we got some great ideas from CACF members on how to improve the process,'' said Dan Fowler, a former Board of Education member who is serving as chairman of the CACF. "We should be ready for our first neighborhood meeting at Point Elemen-tary on Jan. 31. When the neighborhood meetings start at local schools, everyone has an opportunity to participate and give their opinions.''

Thirty-four neighborhood meetings that will take place over a two-month period will offer residents an unprecedented opportunity to help identify and prioritize the long-range needs of 17 district buildings. The neighborhood meetings, planned from Jan. 31 though March 23, are part of an effort coordinated by the CACF.

This core committee, which numbers more than 100 people from all segments of the community, will study the needs of each school building as well as districtwide issues and formulate a comprehensive plan to address the district's long-range building needs.

As part of the process, committees of more than 100 members will be formed at 17 district buildings to study the needs of each building. During two neighborhood meetings that will take place at each building, participants will identify and prioritize the needs of the 17 buildings.

"Never before in the history of the Mehl-ville School District has there been such a large commitment to obtaining community input,'' Fowler said. "The 34 meetings scheduled over the next two months will provide the Citizens' Advisory Committee for Facilities with valuable information from 2,000 people. This is an important step in any community-driven plan.''

January 2000 — Members of the CACF who recently toured two Valley Park schools were surprised to learn that Mehlville lags in both facilities and technology. "The CACF members were very impressed with the Valley Park school fa-cilities. It's hard to believe that Valley Park is ahead of Mehlville in both facilities and technology,'' Fowler said.

Nearly 50 CACF members toured two Valley Park School District schools last week to see firsthand what other districts are offering their students. Committee members visited a newly constructed elementary school and a rehabbed high school originally built in 1932.

"I think they were surprised. You would expect Mehlville would have better facilities. I think they were surprised that Valley Park's facilities outmatched Mehlville's in almost every regard in both facilities and technology,'' Fowler said.

Jan. 31, 2000 — The first neighborhood meeting at Point Elementary School attracted 165 people and district officials were pleased with the turnout, noting the meeting was in direct competition with the Rams' Super Bowl celebration downtown.

"I think the attendance really was excellent Monday night,'' Superintendent John Cary told the Call. "We continue to kind of run interference with the Super Bowl and with the Super Bowl parades and stuff. In fact, there were several parents down there (downtown) who got to the meeting late. To get 165 people out to work I think just emphasizes the importance that the community really does put on the school district providing a good educational environment for kids and protecting the investment of the facilities of the school district for the community.''

February 2000 — Attendance is averaging more than 100 people at a series of neighborhood meetings designed to offer residents the opportunity to help identify and prioritize the long-range needs of 17 Mehlville School District buildings, ac-cording to Fowler.

"We are averaging over 100 participants at each of our building-level meetings,'' Fowl-er said. "These meetings are critical to the success of any facility plan that the CACF presents to the Board of Education. People are working hard and coming up with creative and innovative solutions to problems in all areas explored. What continues to amaze me the most is how well people are working together on listing priorities.''

February 2000 — The Mehlville School District's current outstanding bonded indebtedness will be retired in 2012, a representative of A.G. Edwards & Sons Inc. told the CACF.

Nearly 70 CACF members attended last week's meeting at Bernard Elementary School to hear the presentation on financing a facilities improvement program given by Amelia A.J. Bond, vice president and assistant director of A.G. Edwards.

The district's current bonded indebtedness totals $40,652,208, including $11,475,000 in bonds issued in 1993. Also included is $17,526,579 in 1993 bonds the district refinanced in 1997 and $11,650,629 in 1993 bonds the district refinanced in 1998. Both bond refundings were done to take advantage of lower interest rates at a substantial savings to taxpayers.

"All of the district's current debt will be paid out over the next 12 years,'' she said, noting the district is nowhere near its total bonding capacity of $156 million — 15 percent of its total assessed valuation.

Bond also discussed various types of bonds and the costs associated with issuing them. As an example, she discussed the cost of a $30 million bond issue that would be retired over a 20-year period.

Based on an interest rate ranging from 4.45 percent to 6 percent, a $30 million bond issue would increase the district's debt-service levy by 20 cents to 54 cents per $100 of assessed valuation, she said.

A resident who owns a $100,000 home would pay an additional $38 per year for a $30 million bond issue, while a resident who owns a $125,000 home would pay an additional $47.50 per year.

In prioritizing the district's needs, CACF members will have the estimated costs of all projects. "From this, the CACF will determine how many phases it will take to implement the master plan,'' Fowler said. "For example, a small bond issue would only serve the most critical concerns. On the other hand, if the CACF determines that middle schools should be implemented in phase one, that would call for a larger bond issue.''

March 2000 — The total cost of the school district's building needs could ex-ceed $100 million, according to Fowler.

"The community has identified $30 million worth of needs in just six of our 17 buildings,'' Fowler told the Call. "This does not include Bernard Elementary School, which needs to be entirely re-placed, or Mehlville Senior High School, which has major facility deficiencies.''

Community-identified priorities at six of the district's buildings total nearly $30 million, according to estimates formulated by Dickinson Hussman Architects. The firm currently is in the process of developing estimates for the remaining 11 buildings based on priorities identified by the community.

"I will not be surprised to see a price tag that exceeds $100 million for building needs when all 17 school buildings report to the CACF,'' Fowler said. "If the first round of community building meetings prove anything, it is that we have some facilities that are in very poor condition. This includes structural deficiencies, aging roofs, electrical, HVAC, doors and windows, and safety concerns.

"There is little doubt that there are too many issues to be resolved on one ballot. The plan will have to be looked at in phases,'' he added.

So far, cost estimates totaling $29,667,084 have been prepared by Dickinson Huss-man for community-identified priorities at six Mehlville buildings: Beasley Elemen-tary School, Blades Elementary School, Wohlwend Elementary School, Oakville Middle School, Oakville Senior High School and the Witzel Learning Center.

The chronology continues next week.

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