The School of the Osage Board of Education made it official Monday night ― voters will be asked in April to fund a $22 million bond issue primarily for renovation and expansion of the Heritage building to house Mills Elementary students.
Also included in the project will be improvements to the high school science lab and improved security at all school buildings in the wake of the Sandy Hook Elementary shootings. The security upgrades was not part of the original ballot language but was added after last week's shootings.
The school board voted unanimously to place the bond issue on the April 2 municipal election ballot. The anticipated decision came after months of committee meetings and planning once the decision to close the existing Mills Elementary was made. Overcrowding at Mills and an aging facility prompted school officials to move forward.
Greg Bricker, executive vice president of George K. Baum & Co., of Kansas City, outlined the ballot language and the particulars of the bond issue to the board. He said approval of the bond issue would increase the school's portion of the tax levy by 12.9 cents to 44.9 cents on every $100 of assessed valuation.
Bricker said the accurate way to determine the tax impact for residents of the district to look at the most recent tax statements and apply the numbers.
"This isn't a large levy increase," he said. "It's similar to the (10-cent) tax levy that voters approved in 2006 for the Middle School."
He said an undetermined factor in determining the tax impact is how much assessed values will change. Bricker said he used a 2 ½ percent annual increase, although the adjustment has been less than 1 percent the past few years.
The district will begin a campaign immediately to begin educating the public about the bond issue.
Don Steen, a district resident and former school board member, will chair the committee. He told the board it was an "honor" to help the school district.
"I believe in the Maroon and White," he told the board.
Steen said he has family members who teach and who attend the school district, and his experience as a former Miller County assessor will help explain the numbers.
The committee has met once and will continue to meet on a regular basis.
The Heritage Building is a hodge-podge of additions stretching from 1933 when the School of the Osage was built until the most recent addition in the 1960s.
The renovated building will provide a more open concept with individual hallways on each of the three floors tying in classrooms, resource rooms and administration.
Page 2 of 2 - Tony Hermann, assistant superintendent in charge of facilities, said when the building is finished it will appear closer to the original design than it is now, including period lighting, woodwork and doors.
The building is currently two stories, with a third story planned on the backside of the middle section of the existing facility and below view from the parking lot. In addition to campus-wide hallways that tie the building together, an elevator will service the upper floors.
The renovation and the addition of a third floor will result in eight classrooms per grade ― K-2 ― or 24 classrooms. With the renovation of the existing building, two more classrooms per grade can be accommodated. There is room on the backside of the building for expansion if necessary.
The renovated building will accommodate 700 to 750 students. As of late October, the K-2 enrollment at Mills Elementary was 418 students, leaving the district room for anticipated growth.
The existing Heritage Building is 75,000 square feet. The addition will be 49,000 square feet for a total square footage of 124,000. The current Mills Elementary is 60,000 square feet.