Mt. Pulaski officials look to building bonds for school renovations

Mt. Pulaski officials look to building bonds for school renovations

Voters in the Mt. Pulaski School District will look to approve nearly $16 million in building bonds in order to provide renovations for both the high school and the junior high.

Currently, officials for the over 100-year-old high school building are looking to update the classrooms as well as upgrade the gymnasium. They also currently use steam heaters as well as radiators in the classrooms.

They said the bonds will help to lower high existing operating costs as well as help improve the safety of the students.

"We're looking to tear it down and replace what we've got with less square footage," Superintendent of Mt. Pulaski School District Todd Hamm said.

The high school also has a second part of the building that was built in the 1960s and would stay open if the renovations were to happen. However, there are plans to also renovate classrooms, such as the science classrooms, as well as new entries.

Officials said they looked at continuing to do small fixes here and there when they popped up, but all of them began to add up over time.

"We looked at remodeling and stuff like that but it was not cost-effective and cost prohibited," Hamm said.

Part of the $15.7 million building bond would be used to update the HVAC systems in the high school and junior high.

But for those who do not have a student at any of the schools, they are wondering why their taxes must go up as well.

"Right now, the $4.74 that's what's being taxed right now and then the bond is an addition, which would be 90 cents and like I said, that's about a 16 percent increase," said Scott Cunningham a Mt. Pulaski School District taxpayer.

The school tax levy would rise from $4.75 to $5.65 per $100 assessed value of a person’s property, which would be a 90-cents or 16 percent increase.

According to a handout from the school district, in the worst-case scenario, one would pay if their home market value were to be $50,000 an annual tax adjustment, minus income from a wind farm coming to the area would be $94.54.

However, those involved with the project mentioned the wind farm would allow for more money to be contributed towards the additional taxes.

“We’ve accepted a $140,000 a year donation from the company," School Board President Doug Martin said. "That is above and beyond the property tax money received and the school board has passed a resolution to put that money towards the project to help lower the net effect of a tax increase.”

Cunningham also pointed out that regardless of whether the school eventually closes before the 20 years are up, taxpayers are still responsible for the payments.

"If you pass a bond referendum, such as this, the taxpayers of this district will still be responsible,” Cunningham said.

But officials said the school is more than just a place of learning and the potential tax hike will help build a new future for the town's youth.

"There are several options we have when it comes to that," Martin said. "Whether we save the money and pay the bonds off early or we just consider a certain portion of that every year towards that payment."

Superintendent Hamm called the school the heart of the town and said that is why they are so dedicated to making sure it is in the best condition it can be.

If the bonds are passed, construction would begin in the summer of 2019 and be finished in the fall of 2020.

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