Greater Jasper plans for future district projects

By LEANN BURKE
lburke@dcherald.com

JASPER — The Greater Jasper Consolidated School Corporation is preparing to bond up to $11 million this year.

At a public work session Monday night, Superintendent Tracy Lorey presented a tentative plan of maintenance and update projects the corporation will need in the next few years. A major source of funding for those projects will be the $11 million that is falling off the school’s debt service load this year.

The list of potential projects is long, but the bigger-ticket items include: security system upgrades at Jasper High School, Jasper Middle School and Ireland Elementary, costing $350,000 to $450,000 each; various updates to Jerry Brewer Alumni Stadium and Ruxer Field with estimates yet to be determined; and the possible demolition of Fifth Street Elementary and Tenth Street Elementary once Jasper Elementary is completed, for about $1.3 million.

Lorey stressed that the demolition of the two schools is not guaranteed.

“We don’t have a final solution for Fifth and Tenth street yet,” she said. “We assume that if there is no other use for those they would be demolished.”

The corporation owns both buildings, but does hold a deed agreement with the Catholic Diocese of Evansville for Tenth Street. The school and diocese are currently discussing if the diocese has a use for the building, Lorey said.

The corporation has several revenue sources for upcoming projects, according to Lorey’s presentation. For fiscal year 2018, the school was awarded about $4 million for its capital projects fund, which was used for facilities maintenance needs before being rolled into the operations fund in January. The corporation also has some remaining funds from bonds it took out for a cafeteria project at Ireland Elementary and projects at Jasper Middle School. The $11 million becoming available this year in the debt service fund is by far the largest revenue source.

Schools use the debt service fund to take out bonds for larger facilities projects. The debt service fund is funded through property taxes. This year, Greater Jasper’s property tax levy is $1.09 per $100 of assessed value with $0.61 of that going to the debt service fund.

As school corporations pay debt off, they typically take on new debt in an effort to maintain a stable property tax rate. Greater Jasper’s tax rate has been $1.09 since 2017, with between $0.57 and $0.61 of that going to debt service each year.

To maintain that debt service levy, the school board will need to approve bonding the $11 million this year. Lorey expects to ask the school board to approve the bonding at the March board meeting, set for 7 p.m. Monday, March 25, at the corporation office, 1520 St. Charles St. It is open to the public.

The board will go through a similar process again in a few years when $40 million of debt from the construction of the middle and high schools falls off. Lorey said it’s not guaranteed that the schools would bond the whole $40 million then.

“I’m not saying we’re going to,” she said. “But I would venture to say we’re going to continue to identify needs in our schools.”




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