Scott School District 1 Considers $20 Million Project

The Board of Trustees of Scott County District 1 have announced plans for a proposed $20-million renovation of the elementary school campus in Austin.
Preliminary plans call for razing the 1936 brick gym and elementary classrooms as well as the two 1950’s era elementary classrooms.
New District 1 Superintendent Trevor Jones, himself an AHS grad, said that multiple factors have prompted the school board to look at new construction.
“When you look at the underground infrastructure—the gas lines, the water and sewer lines—on 60- and 80-year-old buildings, then factor in the costs to maintain roofs and the advancing technology used in the classrooms today, the buildings are functionally obsolete,” said Jones. “Today security for our students and controlled access to the buildings are the highest priority. These current buildings have multiple access—multiple ways for anyone to get in.”
“These buildings have served the students and the school district well. But looking 50 years into the future, we need a new building,” he said.
Preliminary cost estimates put the elementary renovation at about $16 million, Jones said.
An additional project being considered is removing the high school’s indoor pool, which was built in the early 1980s, and replacing it with a multi-purpose area.
The pool was closed last year because of ballooning maintenance costs and needed repairs. Jones, who officially became District 1 School Superintendent this past February, said he was told that pool maintenance costs were around $10,000 a month.
Renovating the pool into a multi-purpose space is estimated to cost $1.1 million. Soft costs and contingencies push the entire project up to $20 million.
“If we don’t build a new building, we’ll still be spending millions of dollars in repairs to the old buildings going down the road,” Jones said.
Paying for the project will result in a property tax increase.
Currently the school district’s debt is at just over $7.7 million that is being paid by a tax rate of just under 80 cents per $100 of assessed valuation. The school district’s assessed valuation is just over $161 million.
The school’s last major project— the middle school—is expected to be paid off in two years, Jones said.
“The debt will be paid down some before this project comes onto the tax rolls, which would increase to an estimated $1.15 tax rate which would drop to about 70 cents in about four years,” according to District 1 Treasurer and Business Manager Jami Parks.
Parks estimated that a Jennings Township home with an assessed value $75,000 with a homestead and mortgage exemption could see an increase in property taxes of around $11, a month or $136 per year of the proposed school project.
But before any construction plans are finalized, two public hearings will be held on the matter.
The first public hearing will be at 6:30 p.m. next Monday, April 15, in the school administration building. During this meeting, two school architectural firms—Kovert Hawkins, of Jeffersonville, and Lancer Beebe LLC, of Indianapolis, — will make presentations and offer their visions for Austin elementary’s building future for the coming decades.
A second public hearing will be held at 6:30 p.m. Monday, May 20, to allow for additional public comment.
Jones said it is the school board’s desire to select an architect by the end of May or early June.
Because the project is over $3 million, all school district voters will get to have a yes/no special referendum vote in November.
Jones said if school district voters approve the school plans, construction of a multiple phase, 3-year project could begin in May 2020.
“This is a big decision on a big project impacting the school district into the future,” said Jones. “I welcome the opportunity to discuss and answer questions with anyone in the school district.”