A non-elective proposition will appear on the November ballot for those living within the Manhattan-Ogden USD 383 school district.
The school board is asking to borrow $129.5 million through a bond issue for capital improvements at every school, and eventually build a new elementary school. The payments would be repaid on a 20-year schedule with an average interest rate of 3.97 percent. The state would pay 0 percent of all principal and interest payments.
Currently, the USD 383 school board oversees nine elementary schools, two middle schools and one high school that is spread across two campuses.
Under the plan, all early learning would be consolidated to College Hill and Eugene Field. The district also would get rid of its mobile classrooms. The buildings that house the young learners would be updated and expanded to meet the specific needs of children. Each school would also have secure interests and storm shelters.
At the elementary level, bond money would go toward storm shelters at four schools. The parking lots and pickup/drop-of points would be improved. The board also anticipates no longer needing mobile units at the schools. The new school would be built in Blue Township in Pottawatomie County.
Storm shelters also would be added at the middle school and the high school, which under the plan would be expanded so that all students could be in one building. The middle schools also would expand to move all sixth graders from the elementary schools.
The three schools would expand their parking lots as well. The updated high school would have new tennis courts and updated practice fields.
Q: Why is so much of the previous bond still left?
A: First, some background.
Voters approved a $97.5 million bond issue in 2008 that focused on fixing up Manhattan High School’s West Campus, enlarging some elementary schools and bringing schools up to American with Disabilities Act standards.
The district still has $91 million left because most of the annual payments have gone to interest. The first principal payment was nearly $1.4 million. When the district makes its final payment, nearly $13 million will go toward principal, or about 13 percent of the total bond.
The district sold 20-year bonds in 2008, 2009 and 2011, meaning the final payment will come in 2031.
Q: Why can’t they keep the ninth-grade students at East campus?
A: Board members have repeatedly said the building is not suitable for continuing education there.
While the building would be fine for another few years, Reid said the building would need a lot of work to be on par with other facilities not only in the city, but other comparable school districts.
The building needs the following improvements, based on the recommendations of BG Consultants and Alloy Architecture:
• Site drainage improvements
• Accessibility improvements
• Increased on-site parking
• Increased security connections between the main building and the gymnasium
• Field area for activities
• Increased HVAC efficiencies
• Remediated storm water tie to sanitary sewer
• Asbestos abatement
The school district hasn’t exactly pinpointed what it will do with the East Campus facility. Assistant Superintendent Eric Reid said previously the school district would consider putting the central kitchen in the building. Moving it from the current Hayes Drive facility would open the building so areas like the transportation department could expand.
Transportation needs would change some if the bond passes. The school currently spends $100,000 per year busing students from the ninth grade center to the other campus. The school also buses approximately 400 students from the Blue Township area to Manhattan area schools, like Bluemont Elementary.
The board has also suggested relocated the district warehouse to the building, and moving the Board of Education and staff members there. Or the building could host community meetings or events.
Q: Why bother keeping the East Campus?
A: Currently, part of the Teaching and Learning Department for the district is housed there, and the school board has suggested the rest of the department could move to the building, which would free up some space at schools in the district.
It would be costlier to get rid of the building.
The entire school system is networked through the East Campus, the Network Operations Center. The cost to change the networking location would cost millions of dollars, Reid estimated.
Selling the building would be difficult because of the cost and actual labor of moving the NOC, an agreement with the City of Manhattan the board would have to negotiate.
Q: Will my taxes go up $780 per year with the mill levy change?
The bond and interest fund mill levy for the district is 10.203 mills. The projected increase if this bond is approved would move up to 7.797 mills.
A mill is $1 for every $1,000 taxable asset. So, if someone owns a home valued at $100,000, the annual cost would be $89.67. Someone with a $150,000 home would pay an extra $134.50, and someone with a $200,000 home would pay $179.33 per year.
Commercial properties and agricultural properties are a bit different.
Reid said the mill levy will drop after six years to around 13.75, then drop again six years after that of approximately 10.75 for the remainder of the payment cycle.
Q: What will the continued costs and upkeep be for the new buildings?
A: While there is no real way to say what the total cost of upkeep and operations will be, the board members said they have begun factoring an increase into the budget.
The district will receive money from the state for each student, which is why school officials say it is so significant that the number is estimated to continue increasing by nearly 100 students each school year.
The school board would be saving some money, by busing fewer students across the river and between the two high schools. The bond also would save some money with more energy efficient buildings and designs.
Q: What problem is the bond trying to fix?
A: Overcrowding is the biggest issue the school board is trying to fix with the bond.
There are secondary factors as well, including safety at facilities. In an era where school shootings have been occurring at an increased rate, the board has voiced concerns about the safety of the students.
Other facilities are in need of facility upgrades, like additional parking for faculty and staff, and new playground equipment.
School board member Dave Colburn said at a meeting that new playground equipment is important to the students because playing is essential to their learning
Q: What happens if doesn’t pass?
A: The schools will go on.
The school district would likely see increased class sizes, additional mobile classrooms (each at around $100,000 per year), and more forced transfer students.
Each year, the school district does forced transfers from school to school to help lower the class sizes. Approximately 100 kids per year are transferred from the school they are in the zoned for, and sent to a different school.
The board will also continue to move money around in the budget to the “capital outlay” budget to help fix some of the problems that would be addressed in the bond. There may also be redistricting of attendance boundaries, which could help class sizes, but would not account for future growth.
The school district will redistrict one year prior to the opening of the new elementary school, from nine zones to 10.
In the elementary schools, the elective classrooms — STEM, music and arts — would most likely be repurposed into primary classrooms, putting the elective classes on carts and traveling from grade to grade.