SCC voters to decide no-tax increase $1.75 million-bond issue on April 4

Saturday, March 4, 2017

SIKESTON -- Voters in the Scott County Central School District will be asked to approve a no-tax increase $1.75-million bond issue during the April 4 election.

Mold was discovered on the walls in one of the elementary classrooms during the 2015-2016 school year. At the time, the classroom was vacated and a remedy was sought, according to Scott County Central Superintendent Al McFerren.

"What we initially did was bid the remediation through Service Master in Sikeston and that took care of the issue over in the elementary, but then we found out we had some more issues on the high school side which is in the older part of the district's buildings," McFerren said.

Insurance will cover the issue once a year, the superintendent said.

"You can't continually ask them to do it over and over so we have to get it fixed, and we have to get it fixed because of health concerns," McFerren said.

The school board instructed McFerren to get in touch with companies that provide facility planning services, and the result through studies by McKinstry Co. was a proposal for a $1.75 million no-tax increase bond issue, the superintendent said.

"We are to the point, at this stage, of recognizing that patching is not the long-term solution," McFerren said. "We have to ask our citizens to help us out by voting for an extension of the bond issue we already have in place."

If the bond issue passes with a 57 percent majority, work would begin to find the source of the moisture issues and a permanent solution.

"Let's go in and fix it once and for all," McFerren said.

Uneven heating and cooling has created constant moisture within the buildings, he said.

Currently two classrooms in the elementary are vacant due to mold issues. In one classroom, mold is visible on the walls. Due to the constant moisture, the paint around the windows and air conditioning units is peeling and the window sills are buckling.

The other classroom was where the initial mold was found. While it's been treated, McFerren said he and the staff don't feel comfortable allowing the room to be utilized by the children as a full-time classroom.

"The moisture, for the most part, is there on a constant basis," McFerren said. "We've got to fix it, and that's what we're attempting to do (with this bond)."

In addition to interior walls, mold and moisture have also been located on some of the exterior walls at the elementary and high school buildings.

The district has had tests conducted on mold levels in the buildings, the superintendent said.

"They come first and take the readings on the outside of the building ... so if you come in and levels are below that reading, you should be good to go. The buildings meet acceptable levels, but that doesn't alleviate the concerns of us who are in here on a daily basis -- especially when it involves the health of children," McFerren said.

McFerren pointed out what Scott Central is asking is like what so many other districts are doing. Both Sikeston R-6 and Oran R-3 districts also have no-tax increase issues for building improvements their voters will decide in the April 4 election.

"There's always going to be some issue with a school district that will continue and need upkeep and maintenance routinely done, but unfortunately, the state doesn't take that into consideration, and we have to be creative and we have to ask our patrons -- and we hate to do it.

He continued: "Everybody would love to be debt-free, but if this is what it takes in order to get and maintain the safety of our students and staff and everybody in our district who have to come here on a daily basis and not worry about being exposed to excessive mold, then this is what we have to do."

McFerren said he's optimistic the district constituents and citizens will help and pass the bond no-tax increase issue.

"I'm encouraged," McFerren said. "I believe by going this route we will eventually and once and for all take care of this issue because we know now it's not necessarily roof leaks; it's other factors that have come across that we haven't been aware of."

Five years ago, the district asked its voters for a debt service reduction in order to put more money into its operating funds, and that passed with an 88 percent margin, McFerren pointed out.

This bond will also address other needs by the district, such as upgrading the lighting system.

"There is a lighting grant proposal and loans that pay the district back as far as savings are concerned. We know right now the lighting throughout the district and air conditioning are obsolete," he said.

The purpose of Proposition 2 is to fund the repair and restoration of classrooms, complete lighting and heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC) system upgrades throughout the district; and to the extent funds are available, complete other remodeling and repair improvements to the existing facilities of the district.

If the issue passes, some work could begin in the spring while construction would take place over summer, McFerren said.

"We have heard nothing but positive feedback from the community so far. I am in the process and have formed part of a committee to get the word out, and we will do what we did previously with other bond issues (to inform the public)," he said.

Town hall meetings will be scheduled in the coming weeks at Morley, Haywood City, Vanduser and Crowder.

Scott Central Elementary Principal Stacey Russell said there is indeed a need for the moisture issues to be resolved in the buildings.

"We would like to have all of our classrooms usable, and they're not usable because we've got the issue," Russell said. "Overall, you want the peace of mind of coming to school and work and knowing that it's not affecting your health."

McFerren agreed.

"We need to upgrade and do all these things throughout the district that we've been putting off for many, many years," McFerren said. "Let's get it done and have a really nice place for our students to come and be at every day. They deserve it."

Ballot language:

Proposition 2 will be voted on during the April 4 election.

"Shall the Board of Education of the Scott County Central School District, Missouri, without an estimated increase in the current debt service property tax levy, borrow money in the amount of $1.75 million for the purpose of providing funds for the repair and restoration of classrooms; to complete lighting and heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC) system upgrades throughout the District; to the extent funds are available, complete other remodeling and repair improvements to the existing facilities of the District; and issue bonds for the payment thereof? If this proposition is approved, the adjusted debt service levy of the School District is estimated to remain unchanged at $0.7000 per $100 of assessed valuation of real and personal property."

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