News and Tribune

June 14, 2013

Build me up: NA-FC considers referendum for major school renovations

By JEROD CLAPP
jerod.clapp@newsandtribune.com

NEW ALBANY —

Preliminary renovation concepts for three schools in Floyd County were revealed Monday night, but the board for the New Albany-Floyd County Consolidated School Corp. needs votes to make the projects happen.

Complete overhauls of Green Valley Elementary School and Slate Run Elementary School, along with at least a partial renovation of the Prosser Career Education Center, were presented to the board at their Monday meeting with an estimated cost of about $63 million. 

But in order to fund the projects, the district would seek a referendum, likely in May 2015. Brad Snyder, deputy superintendent, said that will require a lot of community support.

“As a state, less than 50 percent of these [kinds of referendums] passed at 47 percent,” Snyder said. “We’re really hopeful that the voters of Floyd County believe in their public schools and us to support us. We’re really trying to support the community, make our assets shine and give the community something to be proud of.”

He said with the debt of the renovation project for New Albany High School getting ready to fall off in 2017, the district will shoot for a tax-neutral solution that will impact rates at about 17 cents per $100,000 of property value for 20 years.

Snyder said though there’s a perception that referendums have a better chance of passing in a primary election — where voter turnout tends to be lower than general elections — he said there’s no data that supports those claims. 

But whatever public support the district gets, they’ll have to earn before the board considers a resolution to put the referendum to ballot in January 2015 through the county election board.

State law prohibits campaigning for referendums after they’ve been approved to appear on a ballot. Snyder said before the board signs off on that, they’ll probably hire a public-relations firm and determine what kinds of campaigning and advertising would be most effective in getting the word out. But he also said they’ll probably ask Parent Teacher Organizations at schools to make mention of the referendum as they begin campaigning, as well as including information on it in weekly newsletters at schools.

“We need to be ready,” Snyder said. “We need to finish the project definition and communicate with our public, but we don’t want to start too soon because the earlier we start, the more money we will lose because we have to pay interest during construction. We’ll begin paying the debt back in January of [20]18 when the New Albany High School debt falls off.”

The district has already worked on the design concepts with two architects. Schmidt and Associates, which carried out the demographic and facility needs study for the district last year, worked on the Slate Run and Green Valley projects while VPS Architecture showed various configurations of the Prosser renovation. Those three buildings were identified as most in need of updates in the facilities study.

At the meeting, Snyder said the bulk of the $63 million would go to the projects at the two elementary schools, leaving whatever was left for Prosser. The projects for the elementary schools, presented by Tom Neff at Schmidt and Associates, were still in very early stages, but he said the company worked with teachers in those buildings to get ideas for sites they’d like to emulate and what kind of layout they’d like to see.

George Link with VPS Architecture showed three options for Prosser, budgeted at $12 million, $20 million and $25 million respectively. Link said work to the facade of Prosser would help provide a more obvious point of entry, as well as bring the cosmetology school to the main campus; it’s currently on Grant Line Road. But other additions, such as a third building on campus to house the automotive program and district bus maintenance center, would require more than $12 million to accomplish.

“There are many reasons for this initiative,” Snyder said. “The way we fund it certainly is a prime driver, but the use of our [studies in] demographics and physical conditions of our schools is another driver.”