A no-tax-increase bond issue will be before voters of the Camdenton R-III School District in April, and Superintendent Dr. Tim Hadfield says the proposal is really about preparing for a bright future throughout the district.
With this bond issue, the board's main goal is to provide equal educational adequacy among all of its elementary facilities as well as provide space for growth, he says.
The two major projects proposed are both at the two outlying elementary school facilities in the district.
In surveys, patron panel recommendations and just in talking to staff and parents, one of the issues that has arisen is the need for more equity among facilities, Hadfield says.
"We were hearing, 'It shouldn't matter where I live in the district,'" he says.
To provide that "parity," Hadfield says, the board of education plans to use the majority of the funding for construction of a new Osage Beach Elementary building and for a major renovation and expansion of Hurricane Deck Elementary in Sunrise Beach.
Both neighborhood schools had lower educational adequacy scores on a facility study of the district done in 2010.
At Hurricane Deck, the study indicated that personal space within classroom and special learning areas such as library and media rooms is limited in addition to a need for more rooms.
A multi-purpose room truly see multiple duties as gym, auditorium, P.E. classroom and cafeteria, which often causes scheduling conflicts. And when the elementary school holds events, such as the Christmas program, the small multi-purpose can't hold all the parents and grandparents who want to watch their little ones perform.
Hurricane Deck also has some electrical needs and the foundation of the original part of the building is settling. These items are not safety concerns at this point, but need to be addressed for the long term. The capability of providing Internet access at the school is also limited.
With a widening of Highway 5 in front of Hurricane Deck expected in 2014, the school will have to close one of its two entrances as well. With or without the bond issue, the district will have to redo traffic flow in and out of the school for safety reasons.
Osage Beach Elementary is in a similar situation to Hurricane Deck while also already being filled to capacity. The school has two sections of kindergarten this year, both of which could easily have been divided again except there was nowhere to put another class, according to Hadfield. Even a vestibule area in the school had already been put into service as a classroom.
Hurricane Deck is also seeing growth. It took fifth grade out of the school in 2007/08, but has more students students now than it did then, though some of that can be attributed to the addition of a preschool. Enrollment at Hurricane Deck is around 165 with a capacity of 223.
With the infrastructure improvements in Sunrise Beach opening up more development space, Hadfield says the board and administration see a lot of growth potential in the Westside.
Dogwood Elementary, located at the main campus in Camdenton, is not at capacity, but that could be closer than previously believed.
Typically, Dogwood has 11 sections of kindergarten, according to Hadfield, but after enrollment in August 2012, administration was surprised by a significant increase. The district added two more sections of kindergarten and hired new teachers after school had already started to meet the need.
This unexpected growth may be explained by U.S. Census data.
Sunrise Beach planner Roger Corbin has said the district's projections for future enrollment were too modest due to actual population numbers from the 2010 Census being higher than anticipated, based on 2000 data. The district's master plan was based on estimates using 2000 Census data, which Corbin believed was inaccurate due to low participation.
The total population of the district in the 2010 Census was higher than projected by 1,570, or about 676 households using the district's average household size from the Census. The total population of the district in 2010 was 29,639.
A corresponding difference was also seen in Camden County's total population.
To address both parity of facilities and the growth issues throughout the district, the board is considering new boundaries for the elementary schools along with the bond issue.
Currently, Hurricane Deck Elementary serves students from the Hurricane Deck Bridge north to the county line. Camden County kids living between the bridge and Camdenton attend Dogwood Elementary.
Increasing the Sunrise Beach school's attendance area further south could justify a new, bigger facility in the immediate future and provide space for future growth at both Hurricane Deck and Dogwood schools.
The board of education is requesting the approval of $43 million in general obligation bonds, but this financing won't be supported by an additional levy.
Approximately $35 million of the bonds would be used for construction and renovation. In addition to the major projects at the two elementary schools, the funding would also pay for security upgrades at the main campus. These security elements would be built into the new and renovated facilities, but the main campus will need to be retrofitted with additional measures to better control public access to students.
If bids for construction come in lower than $35 million, the district will not issue the entire amount of bonds, Hadfield says.
The other $8 million is for the refinancing of lease purchase certificates used to fund the new high school. Tax-exempt bonds would have a lower interest rate than the lease purchase certificates.
The bonds will be paid back from the district's current operating levy, $2.87 per $100 of assessed valuation.
The $2.87 levy is now split into four basic funds with $1.33 going to general operations, $1.18 to teachers' - certified staff - salaries and benefits, $0.20 to debt service and $0.16 to capital projects.
Of the $0.16 capital project fund, $0.11 fund the payment of the lease purchase certificates for the high school. With that expense being rolled into the bond issue, the plan is to take that $0.11 out of the capital projects fund and add it to the debt service fund, making its portion of the levy $0.31 and giving the district the ability to make the bond payments.