Austin Elementary Construction Plans Move Forward

Lancer+Beebe Preliminary Design For New Austin Elementary

The Indianapolis based architectural firm of Lancer+Beebe was hired as the design firm for a proposed $20 million elementary school renovation when the Scott County School District 1 board met on May 20. The board unanimously approved the hiring following a second public hearing on the proposed project
The preliminary plans by the architect call for updating the 1936 brick gym & elementary classrooms, razing the 1950 era classrooms and building a new elementary school that connects the classrooms with the historic school building and AHS gymnasium. Additionally, the school board wants to remove the indoor swimming pool at Austin High School, which was constructed in the early 1980’s, and replace it with a multi-purpose area.
During the public hearing, Mike Therber of the Indianapolis based financial consulting firm Therber Brock, said that there are two methods of financing a school construction project.
The state Common School Loan fund is available at 4% interest with a 25-year repayment schedule, Therber said, adding that the Common School Loan rate is not changed in a considerable length of time and is not expected to any time soon.
“The maximum loan per year is $15 million so if we decide to go that route the financing would need to be in two phases to pay for a $20 million project,” he said, noting that CSL funding is approved on a first come-first served basis
Therber said the alternative method of financing is through a bond issue. “Currently, bonds are being purchased at 3.5% but those rates fluctuate more than the Common School Loan,” he said.
There are additional costs for advertising and selling school bonds, he said.
“Which method to use could be a ‘game time decision’ as the project moves forward,” he advised the board.
Therber told the crowd that the project will result in a debt service (the fund from which school mortgages and loans are paid) tax rate increase.
The current school debt tax rate is just under 80-cents per $100 of assessed valuation. Therber said that the tax rate could go to $1.13 for a few years.
He said that for a home with an assessed valuation of $75,000 the tax bill could increase about $220 per year for a couple of years. He added that the owner of one acre of farm ground could expect to pay $18 more.
“But with the middle school construction loan being paid off in a few years we anticipate tax neutrality (dropping back to around the current 80 cents rate) after that,” the financial advisor estimated.
The school board voted unanimously to pass a resolution to move the project forward.
With the passage of that resolution, attorney Dennis Otten with the law firm Bose McKinney & Evans of Indianapolis said that the school board has a 30 day period to circulate a petition to gain signatures of school district property owners to place the question of whether or not to build the new school on the Nov. 7 ballot.
In that referendum vote in November voters will be able to vote ‘yes’ or ‘no’ to the proposed building project. The vote will be held in conjunction with the Austin municipal election. Registered voters outside the city limits will be able to vote just on the school construction project question.
In other business, the board approved a number of personnel retirements and resignations.
Retiring Teachers included Middle School teacher Ben Watts and Elementary School Teacher, Wanda Dailey.
Steve Alexander retired as custodian
Resignations were accepted from elementary teacher Cheryl Smith and media specialist Keri Hammons.