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Education/Schools

April 17, 2014

Improvements approved for Clarksville High

$2 million for auditorium, fine arts wing

CLARKSVILLE —  A $2 million bond issuance to repair the auditorium and fine arts wing at Clarksville High School was initiated at a series of board meetings this week.

Though a bond issued last year for the same amount originally included plans to improve the facilities, the entire allotment was spent on a heating, air conditioning and ventilation project that was much more expensive than anticipated.

Clarksville Community School’s board of trustees unanimously voted to initiate the process at Tuesday’s meeting. Thursday, the school’s holding corporation examined it before the board approved the amendment.

The proposed updates for the auditorium includes seating, floor coverings and resolving sound issues. Initially, the district’s board of trustees were under the impression that serious structural problems existed in the auditorium, but a study revealed cracks in the facility were cosmetic and could be repaired less expensively.

Earl Pierce, president of the high school’s building corporation, said he was concerned that there were so many changes to the lease in the last couple of years.

“Are we on a road that’s going to see these addenda every six months?” Pierce said. “What are we doing to get this thing addressed so that you’ve covered it in a reasonable amount of time rather than have a succession of these addenda in a short period of time?”

Marsha Volk Bugalla, district general counsel, said though the board keeps coming back for more bond issuances, it’s not because it’s not part of a process.

“This is not a lack of planning or a lack of foresight,” Bugalla said. “There’s a reason for doing these sequentially and in the amounts they’re being done. It’s an easier way to get the money that you need for a discreet project. When you do these, you don’t want to spend more money than you have to in obtaining the money.”

She said this isn’t likely to be the last time the holding corporation hears from the board on similar issues, either.

“This is not a higgledy-piggledy kind of thing, it’s planned,” Bugalla said. “You will, in all likelihood, be back here again in six months to a year for another one.”

Pierce said if there was a plan in place, there should have been more communication with the holding corporation.

“Interestingly enough, that would have been good to know when we did the last one,” Pierce said. “I guess when you say this is a planned process, had I been privy to that information before, I might not have had these questions.”

Deborah Palmer, holding corporation member, asked about some of the issues at Clarksville Middle School the board heard about from their new facilities director, Rick Jackson, in March.

With leaking sewer lines above electrical transformers in the basement, foundation issues and roof problems, she said she wondered if the money was better spent at the middle school.

But Kim Knott, superintendent, said that wasn’t possible in this case, since the lease agreement had to do with the high school. She also said it could take much more than $2 million to address all of the issues at the middle school.

“We believe that we’ve kept a handle on it and we’re continuing to do things over here on an as-needed basis,” Knott said. “But I’ll be honest, you have to balance the need to keep this building safe and to spend taxpayer dollars. To continue to put $2 million [at a time] into this building, I don’t think that’s being good stewards of taxpayer money because we’ve got major needs.”

Jeffery J. Qualkinbush, bond counsel, said in regards to the bonds for the high school auditorium, these kinds of issuances aren’t uncommon anymore. In the last five years, he said, school corporations were dealt a blow to their capital projects funds — which handles maintenance projects and other non-general fund expenditures — since property tax caps were enacted. That’s how CPF is funded.

“You’re seeing, I would say, probably 65 to 70 percent of school corporations across the state are doing these short-term, every year, every six month bond issues to address things that used to be addressed as a pay as you go type program out of their capital projects fund,” Qualkinbush said.

Pierce said with that factor in mind, it made sense to him to pass the addendum.

The school board met immediately afterward on Thursday, also passing the bond issue.

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