AdVantage News photo
Roxana School Board member Pat Devening, left, speaks at a public hearing Thursday; also pictured are, from left, board member Jon Lawrence and Assistant Superintendent Stephen Oertle.
ROXANA – Speakers at a public hearing Thursday raised questions about the school district's plan to sell $9.5 million in working cash bonds to renovate buildings.
Superintendent Debra Kreutztrager said proceeds from the bond sale would be used for air-conditioning at the junior/senior high school, adding a gymnasium, adding pre-kindergarten and elementary classrooms, improving drainage at the junior/senior high parking lot, covering walkways to classes at the junior/senior high and eliminating portable classrooms, among other projects.
Kreutztrager said temperatures sometimes hit 90 degrees in classrooms at the junior/senior high school. Elementary students have to wait to use the district's two gymnasiums.
“It's time to address getting all of our kids the best learning environment possible,” she said.
The district's tax rate of $3.88 per $100 equalized assessed valuation is the lowest in Madison County, Director of Business Management Chris Hagen said. The bond issue would cost the owner of a $100,000 home $10 to $50 more per year in property taxes, depending on the repayment schedule. Hagen said now is a good time to borrow because interest rates are expected to increase in the next six months.
About 30 people attended the hearing, and four of the five speakers asked the district to reconsider the plan.
Jeremy Plank said the district shouldn't be borrowing when its revenues are up. He cited the Edwardsville School District's problems asking voters for more money after the district borrowed to fund facility projects.
“To take on additional debt... should be one of the last options considered given the fund balance of the district,” Plank said.
Madison County Board member Mick Madison, who represents part of the school district, said legal notices advertising the bond issue didn't include the word “Roxana.”
“It sure gives the appearance you were trying to slide this bond issue through without anyone noticing,” he said.
Madison said the public should vote on issuing new debt.
“We should all have a say in what we get to do with that money,” he said.
Melissa Erker, a spokeswoman for WRB Refinery, which provides 74 percent of the district's property tax revenue, said working cash funds are typically not used for capital projects. The Madison County Board of Review increased the refinery's assessed value to $441 million after an expansion project.
“We would ask that the board think about this … and change the process so it's open to the public,” Erker said.
An employee of the Edwardsville School District said residents should trust the school board to take the best course of action based on research.
“It is so important for our young people,” she said. “We need good schools.”
Board member Steve Palen said the board will consider publishing new ads with clearer wording. The district has no control over the wording of legal notices.
The board will not vote on the bond issue until its March meeting.