COLUMBIA — Columbia Public Schools has big plans to improve its facilities and begin new projects during the next 1o years.
Superintendent Chris Belcher outlined the district's plan to update its buildings through bond issues at the Central Missouri Development Council’s membership meeting Tuesday.
Under the plan, the district will ask voters to approve a bond issue every two years from 2012 to 2020. The bonds will be issued about two years after each vote. The last proposed bond issue would take effect in March 2022.
Belcher said the sale of the current $120 million bond issue, approved by voters in April 2010, has received lower interest rates than expected. Lower interest rates mean the district can save more money.
Projects being funded by the $120 million bond issue:
- Belcher said construction on Muriel Williams Battle High School might finish under budget.
- The district is in the process of building gymnasiums at Rock Bridge and Hickman high schools. Belcher said each school would need two gyms to accommodate freshmen when the district transitions to high schools that include ninth- through 12th-grade students. So far, budgeting for construction has gone well. This will allow for more improvements than the district originally planned. Belcher said when Battle High School opens, he wants the three high schools to have similar facilities so there is equity among the three schools.
- The district will continue work on its air conditioning projects. Belcher said the district plans to complete work on five elementary schools this summer. Grant, Lee and Ridgeway elementary schools will get new heating and cooling systems. Two Mile Prairie and Midway Heights elementary schools' systems will also be updated. Belcher said he expects Jefferson Junior and West Junior high schools' updates to start in summer 2013.
- Construction of the new elementary school near Battle High School in northeast Columbia should proceed as planned. It is set to open in 2015.
A $50 million bond issue and a 12-cent debt service levy increase will be on the ballot for voters to approve in April.
Voters must also decide whether to approve a 40-cent property tax levy increase. Belcher said the additional revenue raised by the property tax levy would help cover cuts in state funding and amount to $8 million annually.
He said $4 million would be used to keep up with inflationary costs, $2 million would be used to hire back 25 employees and $2 million would be used toward finding ways to fund classroom-based technology.
Projects to be funded by the $50 million bond issue:
- Constructing a $20 million elementary school south of town, set to open in 2016.
- Building an $8 million early childhood center on Lange Middle School property.
- Building additions to Shepherd Boulevard and West Boulevard elementary schools.
- Improving the bus barn parking area with $4.5 million.
Future bond issue plans
In April 2014, the district will put another $50 million dollar bond and an 8-cent debt service levy increase to vote. Some money from this project would go toward building another new elementary school east of town.
Belcher said one long-term plan, covered by multiple bond issues, is to eliminate the use of trailers in the district. When Battle opens in 2013, the smaller intermediate school populations will allow the district to start getting rid of some of its 153 trailers.
The bond issues proposed for 2016, 2018 and 2020 would each be $40 million and require no tax increase.