Blair Oaks Board of Education talks new high school plans

6 months 1 week 1 day ago Wednesday, April 11 2018 Apr 11, 2018 Wednesday, April 11, 2018 2:13:00 PM CDT April 11, 2018 in News
By: Wesley Weglarek, KOMU 8 Reporter

WARDSVILLE - The Blair Oaks School District has doubled in size in the past few years. So the district's Board of Education is looking for solutions.

"In the last 15 years we have went from 600 students to 1,200 students," said Dr. Jim Jones, Blair Oaks superintendent.

The Board of Education met Tuesday night to discuss plans for a new high school.

The proposed project would cost around $17 million. The 25 acres of land for the school was bought in December 2011, adjacent to the current school campus.

"Our bonding capacity is one of our biggest hurdles to overcome. Our bonding capacity right now is $12.5 million, so regardless of what taxpayers and our school district desires, we cannot go over $12.5 million," said Jones. 

Bonding capacity is the assessed valuation of the school district, minus the total debt of the district. On average, the Blair Oaks bonding capacity increases $1.5 million each year, which is a good thing.

"The Missouri Constitution does not allow a district to be indebted more than 15% of its assessed valuation," said Jones.

To increase the bonding capacity to the $17 million required to build the school, the value of the school district must increase or the school district must pay down its debts. 

Another way to raise the money is to increase the tax rate. The Blair Oaks tax rate has remained at $3.66 for each $100 of assessed property value, since the 2007-2008 school year, when it approved a 30-cent increase to the service levy. For comparison, the tax rate for the Columbia School District is $6.05.

"Last night our bonding advisors stopped and visited with the board about options that are available. One of which is to increase the debt service levy 30 cents in August at our tax rate hearing and then propose a no-tax increase bond issue in April 2019 and a second no-tax increase bond issue in April 2023," said Jones.

According to Jones, the other option is to wait until April 2019, run the $14 million bond issue with a 30-cent increase and a no tax increase in 2023.

Jones said either option arrives at the same outcome.

A proposed tax would be finalized in January, and it would be put on the April 2019 ballot.

President of the School Board Peggy Luebbert says the people of the district need to be involved in the decision.

Another problem for the district is the increasing cost of construction and increasing interest rates. 

When the high school is built, there will be four buildings: one for K-2, 3-5, middle school and high school. Jones says the extra space would allow an extra 120 students per building.

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