Public hearing on selling health, life safety bonds
meeting started with a public hearing as to the selling of health,
life safety bonds. District 61 wants to sell these bonds in order to
pay for school improvements, including new heating and
air-conditioning systems, updated electrical systems, a more secure
entrance to the building, as well as moving and creation of a new
cafeteria (but not the kitchen).
The first person to speak was Jim Rohrer. Rohrer said he was
expecting to see someone from the bonding company (Stifel Nicolaus)
at the hearing, but no representative was present. Rohrer also said
he was surprised to see a legal notice for the hearing earlier in
Rohrer said he had been reading previous meeting minutes, and he
could find no mention of a $2.5 million bond in recent
documentation. "I'm looking for a paper trail," he said.
Rohrer later said he is concerned that selling the bonds is being
used in a way to work without voter approval. "I would think the
school board would want the voice of the people to be heard," he
A second guest, Mr. Alberts (whose first name was unstated)
wanted to ask the board a couple of questions concerning the
figures. Alberts told the board he did not understand what this
money would be used for.
Alberts was interrupted by board member Larry Hall. Hall and
Alberts both attempted to speak. After a few moments of jumbled
dialogue, including a couple of remarks from Hall himself, Hall left
the board meeting and did not rejoin any further discussion.
Multiple guests expressed a desire to see Hall reprimanded.
Craig Strampp, another guest, attempted to ask Rohrer and Jeff
Brooks what they intended to accomplish in circulating their
Rohrer and Brooks did not answer any questions.
A change in payment options
Prior to the January meeting, the board also intended to sell
general obligation alternate revenue bonds. These bonds would not
exceed a total of $1.8 million. The money used to pay for the bonds
and the accompanying interest would have come from the 1-cent county
The new tax is now in its 10th monthly payment to local schools
and can be used only to pay for improvements to schools and their
grounds in Logan County.
On Jan. 7, a petition with more than 200 signatures, the number
needed in order to file, was submitted to Logan County Clerk Sally
Litterly. This petition would require the school board to submit to
the county board the intent to sell alternate revenue bonds. The
county board would then place the item on the ballot in April,
leaving the decision up to the voters.
The general obligation bonds alone would not have paid for the
renovations. Originally, the district was also going to sell health,
life safety bonds in an amount not to exceed $2.5 million. The
intent was to sell the bonds at $1 million, which would keep the tax
rate at the same level.
However with the submission of the petition, plans for paying for
renovations have changed. The school board voted to approve a new
resolution to abandon the intent to sell alternative revenue bonds.
The resolution was unanimously approved.
The second vote of the evening was to approve a new health, life
safety amendment. The new amendment will allow the district to sell
bonds for the full amount of $2.5 million. In order to keep the tax
rate at the current level, $1.5 million of that total will be abated
yearly back to the taxpayers. This action was also unanimously
Health, life safety bonds do not require a referendum. This
action will allow the construction to remain within the intended
"By selling the $2.5 million in HLS bonds, the district will be
able to complete the work before the February 2014 deadline," said
Superintendent Jennifer Hamm. "If the board would have waited until
April to see the outcome of the referendum, we could not have had
the work completed before the February 2014 deadline. Many of the
projects must be completed by February of 2014 per health, life
Hamm also said that the board is hoping to cover the rest of the
costs through grants. Hamm said more grants may be available due the
installation of an environmentally friendly heating system. Hamm
added that labor costs and interest rates are currently at all-time
lows for such projects.
Various costs for the renovations include $238,400 for asbestos
removal and replacing flooring; $125,760 for replacing windows and
removing asbestos in the window caulk; $41,800 for bathroom
renovations; $281,300 for electrical work; $30,000 to extend
electrical circuits; and $1,580,600 for heating, air conditioning
Thoughts from the board
Board members spent the greater part of an hour explaining the
difficulties they have faced in making these renovations happen. The
board members also wanted to address recent insinuations that they
have been less than honest about their intentions.
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Kenny Golden, board president, said the board has spent the last
year going over the costs of these projects several times. He said
the board has called in professionals from multiple companies to aid
in this matter. He also referenced the work that has been provided
by the public during a series of engagement meetings in September
"Our responsibility to the district, to the students, to the
taxpayers is all of critical importance to us," said Golden. "But we
have to weigh how much we are spending with the needs of the
children and the needs of the educators in our district."
He expressed that the board worked very hard to ensure that taxes
would not be raised for this project and that it would be carried
out under a balanced budget, which the district has for this year.
He cited the heating and air problems that need to be fixed,
saying that no board has been able to solve the problems in 14
"We have the opportunity with the 1-cent sales tax that the Logan
County people passed to get this work accomplished without raising
taxes," said Golden. "That tells me we are trying to do the right
He also said he does not mind if people disagree with the board's
However, the petition for referendum has greatly frustrated him.
"I feel like this referendum was forced, because the information
that I'm getting back from people, the numbers weren't right," said
Golden feels that the information has been misinterpreted by
members of the public, despite all of the opportunity that has been
provided by the board members for the public to learn. The
misinformation has led some people to believe the board is hiding
"If we were hiding things, we would be doing a whole lot better
job of it," said Golden jokingly.
Board member Kenda Kitner said these improvements are the same
types of projects that other schools in the area have begun work on,
using the same source of money. Leslie Starasta echoed the
statement, adding: "Why can't CEL kids have air conditioning, too?"
Board member Tina Warfel said that if the district waits and
tries to save the money over a longer period of time, at least
$500,000 would be added in costs.
Ben Roland, vice president of the school board, spoke for nearly
half an hour. He first apologized publicly for the actions of Hall
earlier in the meeting. Roland also said he apologized to Alberts
shortly after Hall left.
Roland echoed the statements of his fellow board members, saying
that he felt the same frustration with the idea that the board was
being dishonest about their intentions. He also said that the board
has worked with professionals in every step of this endeavor to
provide the most accurate information possible.
"I came in with the mindset that we are going to take that money
(1-cent tax) as it comes in, and we're going to allocate it to the
building and grounds, and we're going to do that and pay as we go,"
He realized, however, that over time such a method would not be
He also said that the board worked tirelessly to ensure that
taxes would not be raised, and the board members provided answers to
anyone who asked about the process outside of board meetings.
"I don't know what actions we could have taken to make this any
more transparent," said Roland.
He addressed insinuations that the school board has been
dishonest, saying that such a tactic frustrates him greatly.
"If you're looking for some group of people who are acting
dishonestly, you're gonna need to look farther than this group (the
board members) because it's not here," said Roland.
Roland's comments ended with brief applause from most of the
crowd. As if on cue, the fire alarm sounded soon after. Guests and
board members exited the building while the problem was fixed.
As part of her report, Hamm told the board that midyear results
of Measures of Academic Progress testing, known as MAP, indicate
that all of the grades except one are on target in terms of reading
and math skills. The one class that is off track contains special
education students, and those students will be receiving extra help
in the near future.
Hamm also congratulated the seventh-grade boys basketball team on
their recent tournament victory.
After Hamm's report, Golden reminded everyone present that there
is still a board seat open. Those interested who can represent East
Lincoln can notify the board.
Board members present were Kenny Golden, president; Ben Roland,
vice president; Tina Warfel; Larry Hall; Leslie Starasta; Kenda
Kitner; and Superintendent Jennifer Hamm.
[By DEREK HURLEY]
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