By JEROD CLAPP
NEW ALBANY —
The most expensive projects outlined in a multimillion dollar bond proposal have met with resistance, but New Albany-Floyd County Consolidated School Corp. administrators said they feel optimistic about its upcoming vote Monday.
After hearing the case for a $6 million general obligation bond, the district board of trustees will vote Feb. 10 whether to pursue or scrap it.
The bond is set to fund seven objectives — listed in five projects — to upgrade school facilities across the district, but line items such as artificial turf for high school football fields have flared opinions on arguments for and against them.
Brad Snyder, deputy superintendent, said he thought testimony from coaches and Floyd Central’s marching band director, Harold Yankey, provided a strong case for installing the turf at both high schools, estimated to cost $1.25 million.
“There are detractors and there will be detractors, but at the end of the day, these are going to generate school pride,” Snyder said. “The Bulldog fans are going to love looking at the quality of that field and the big bulldog in the middle and Highlanders are going to do the same thing. I just don’t see how it could not promote school spirit.”
He said especially since competition is a factor in public education, top-notch facilities could serve as an attractor for parents when choosing where to enroll those students.
He said while schools like St. Xavier High School and Trinity High School — both in Louisville and both with synthetic turf fields — are competitors for their students, his district needs to have as much to offer to keep students in their schools.
“Now with kind of open borders on student choice, students and parents are looking for schools that are progressive,” Snyder said. “To what degree those decisions are made on what the fields are made of, I don’t know. But we think parents like first-class facilities.”
New Albany High School is one of two class 6A schools with grass fields. The other is Jeffersonville High School.
But Rebecca Gardenour, board member, said she’s not sure synthetic turf should be at the top of the district’s list of needs. While the bonds fund other projects — such as installing SMART Boards in middle schools — she said the district’s facilities study revealed other issues that seemed more important to her.
She also said the addition of science classrooms for New Albany High School as outlined in the bond — estimated to cost $2 million — wasn’t as urgent as some of the facilities upgrades suggested for elementary schools.
“There are elementary schools that need work on them before I would consider adding science rooms to New Albany High School or artificial turf for the football fields,” Gardenour said. “I think we need to take care of our elementary schools first.”
She said she wishes the administration would look for cost savings within their capital projects fund to use for some of the projects.
“I also think there’s other things we can be doing to save money that could pay for some of these projects that they want,” Gardenour said. “I think we could save money on what we’re spending on advertisement and communications.”
But Snyder said if the district is going to pursue bonds, now may be the best time they’ll see for a while. He said with interest rates so low, they can pay off these bonds by 2017 with minimal impact to property taxes.
He said the taxes on a home in the county with an assessed value of $100,000 would pay about $3 toward the bond issuance. Homes in the city at the same value may not see a change at all because of the state property tax caps.
“We believe that it’s going to be in the neighborhood of $3 a year for a $100,000 home in the county,” Snyder said. “A large majority of the $100,000 homes in the city are already receiving a circuit breaker credit. If they’re getting that credit, this will be nothing to them.”
He also said doing this now will separate the referendum the district hopes to put to a ballot in May 2015. That $63 million proposal would pay for major upgrades to Slate Run Elementary School, the Prosser Career Education Center and Green Valley Elementary School.
But he said since the bonds from this issuance and the construction bonds still leftover from the upgrades to New Albany High School will fall off at the same time, the increase in taxes from a passed referendum would still be equal to or lower than what they will be next year.
He said the board still has room to change up the projects outlined in the $6 million bond, but they’d have to re-advertise the projects and vote on it again.
Regardless of what Monday’s vote turns out to be, he said he feels good about what administrators presented to the board.
“I think they’re good projects, it’s well reasoned and well thought out,” Snyder said. “I think it’s going to help a lot of kids with instructional stuff and extracurricular, co-curricular stuff. It’s going to touch a lot of kids.”