Move-in to the renovated and expanded School of the Osage Heritage Building is about a month away as the 13-month, multi-million dollar project is nearing its end.

Move-in to the renovated and expanded School of the Osage Heritage Building is about a month away as the 13-month, multi-million dollar project is nearing its end.

Superintendent Brent Depeé anticipates school staff will begin to wax floors and do a final cleaning the second week of July, with the move from Mills Elementary to the renovated facility beginning in late July.

But school officials aren’t resting on their laurels as Depeé outlined a string of major projects Monday night that he says will “provide the best education for our children of this great district.”

He delivered a detailed budget message for 2014-15 at the monthly board of education meeting. Board members voted unanimously to adopt the budget proposal.

Major projects

Depeé said it would take about two years and several million dollars to finish the “big ticket” items. These include:

•Replace the roof and upgrade the HVAC system at the high school. A portion of the high school roof and field house will be completed this summer for about $470,000. To complete the roof and HVAC update by the 2015-16 school year, an additional $1.5 million will be needed.

•Resurface the high school track and upgrade the lights at the football field at a cost of about $500,000.

•Upgrade the technology infrastructure to make the entire Osage campus wireless. Estimated cost is $340,000.

•Update the electrical system that powers much of the Highway 42 campus. Once completed, the district will turn the maintenance over to Ameren Missouri.

In 2016, the district will pay off its 2006 Middle School debt after refinancing the bonds at a lower interest rate at a savings of about $1.2 million. The savings will be used to pay for the new high school roof and HVAC.

Part of the $22 million voter-approved bond issue, which increased the school district’s debt service by 12.9 cents per $100 of assessed valuation, will be used to complete renovations at the high school including science labs and the office area. These projects should be completed by early fall.

Fund balance

The board of education last July adopted an unrestricted fund balance goal of 35 percent of its total budget. As of the 2012-13 school year, the fund balance was 44.6 percent. Depeé anticipates this year’s fund balance to be between 40 and 42 percent, and projects next year’s fund balance to be between 36 and 40 percent.

Most of the projects are based on the district’s collection of property taxes and delinquent taxes.

Fund balances are encouraged, and to some degree mandated, so district’s have an adequate reserve fund in case of an emergency. Cities and counties often follow the same goals.

Tax levy

The School of the Osage has one of the lowest operating levies in the state at $2.40 per $100 of assessed valuation.

“Our operating levy has been very low because of our frugalness and low student-to-assessed valuation ratio,” Depeé said. “Because we are so heavily locally funded, and because our local economy has seen very little growth, the School of the Osage District is in a deficit spending cycle.”

He predicted a possible tax levy hike “to maintain our high level of education” if the local economy does not see at least a 5 percent growth each year.

Eighty-two percent of the district’s revenue is locally generated through property tax, which makes the Osage district different than most districts which rely heavily on state and federal funding, Depeé said.

Although the district’s assessed valuation has been flat for several years, and property tax revenue equally flat, the school district stands to gain about $180,000 more in revenue starting next fall. The first Tax Increment Financing (TIF) entity involving the school district ― Osage National ― sunsets in October and the district’s assessed valuation will increase about $7 million.

“Much thought has gone into the 2014-15 budget,” Depeé said. “I need to remind everyone this is a living document. The numbers change daily as the district’s needs change.”