The Platte County R-3 School District continued its busy construction season during its regular meeting, delayed a week until Thursday, June 25 to allow for more business to take place. Officials presented a proposed budget for the 2015-2016 school year and received the go-ahead for funding on major parts of its current capital improvement project. All items received unanimous approval from the board of education.
Most notably, the district received approval to move forward the issuance of roughly $29 million in bonds to fund the current capital improvement project. This comes as a result of the April general municipal election in which voters approved a $0.43 tax levy increase that would help fund construction of a new elementary school in Platte City along with improvements to Paxton School and Pathfinder Elementary.
In accessing the market now, the district should lock in interest rates on the lease purchase financing lower than the ones predicted during planning for the ballot question last fall. According to Greg Bricker of George K. Baum and Company, current interest rates are still averaging at below 4 percent.
The final interest rates will be approved at a special board of education meeting scheduled for 8 a.m. on Wednesday, July 22.
Any savings on interest realized through a lower interest rate could be put toward other capital improvement projects, per the language on the ballot that voters approved. Platte County superintendent Mike Reik said those savings would be spread out across the 20-year life of the financing and shouldn’t be significant enough to create a windfall, and any use of those dollars would be carefully weighed.
The board also approved details of the contract with MKEC Engineering, Inc. for work on the extension of Kentucky Avenue to service the new elementary building currently under construction. The scope of service calls for $242,000 in cost to expand a short portion of the roadway and create a four-lane boulevard style road complete with lighting and sidewalk from the current terminus at Bent Oak Court out to Fourth Street in Platte City.
A joint project between the district and City of Platte City, work could start as early as Jan. 15, 2016, according to MKEC’s proposal.
The other major expenditure approved at the meeting related to the new construction project was with Terracon to provide mandated soil testing on the construction site, part of a 60-acre plot of land the district owns to the west of its current campus. Terracon will be paid almost $75,000 to provide this work.
Preliminary dirt and utility work has begun on the construction site and has remained on schedule despite the recent heavy rains.
“The site has changed a lot,” said Daniel Foye, project manager with Manning Construction. “We’re looking at a lot of brown dirt instead of trees. We’re getting ready to shave the hump off (the hill) so you can see it from Fourth Street, which will make it a lot more appealing to the public.
“Like I’ve told Dr. Reik, a lot of the joggers become walkers right near that area to look at it. It’s very exciting.”
The approval of the proposed budget was approved ahead of July 1 in accordance with state statute. The final budget will be approved at the July meeting but should feature a significant increase in both revenues and expenditures.
The documentation shows that the addition of 12 full-time employees, projected salary increases, increase in health insurance costs and purchasing of technology and buses. Overall, expenditures are projected to top more than $51 million in 2015-16.
Revenues are currently projected at just under $51 million.
Reik said new construction along with expected appreciation of existing property would help push that number up nearly $5 million from last year. The increased tax levy voters approved in April, which will fund the repayment of the bonds detailed at the meeting, was also factored into this year’s budget.
The revised state formula should also offer Platte County more funds in addition to its increase due to the bump up in enrollment.
“The budget is a fluid document and requires perpetual change and agility. The economy improving did play a factor in this budget. I’m happy to say that. This might be the first year where I can actually say the economy has helped our budget — maybe last year a little bit.”