The Vigo County School Corp. reduced the proposed secondary school projects to three options.
All three would keep Vigo north, south and west on their current campuses – with two options calling for new construction / renovation and the third calling for new schools on each campus.
The two new construction / renovation options are similar except that one requires a larger referendum amount so that all three projects can be carried out at the same time.
“Our goal is to try to move forward on a project that we believe our community will come together on,” said Superintendent Rob Haworth recently. “This is our goal, if we believe by January 1 that our community wants us to pursue a referendum, we will [conduct one] in May.”
The district is also proposing to end its operational referendum – approved by voters in the fall of 2019 – earlier than expected, with federal ESSER funds closing the gap. It is also possible to do this because the district reduced its operating costs and was able to pay for its technology plan with federal CARES Act / ESSER dollars.
Ending the referendum operational in 2024 instead of 2027 would free up the referendum tax rate of 16.2 cents to be used for a construction program, and limiting the additional tax impact could help the district win a referendum on construction, officials said.
A construction project isn’t just about facility needs, ”Haworth said at a press briefing Tuesday. “I also think it’s about our ability to attract and retain” people in Vigo County. He thinks it can help reverse the decline in the community’s population.
The construction options for the high school are as follows:
New academic spaces in the North, South and West high schools of Vigo. He also calls for the renovation of non-university spaces in the three, which would include a cafeteria, auditorium, etc. He calls for a referendum of $ 160 million for new spaces and $ 100 million for renovation projects over time.
The option would require a tax rate of 24.8 cents per $ 100 of assessment, or 8.6 cents more than what taxpayers are currently paying for the current referendum.
Same building elements as above, but with a referendum of $ 260 million for new academic spaces and renovated non-academic spaces, with all three schools being built at the same time. It would take a referendum of 41 cents, or 24.8 cents more than what taxpayers are currently paying for the current referendum.
The scope of the Options 1 and 2 projects is similar, with $ 160 million for new academic space in the three high schools and $ 100 million for renovated extracurricular spaces, said Bill Riley, VCSC director of communications.
However, Option 2 would be a cohesive project using a $ 260 million referendum.
Option 1 would use a referendum of $ 160 million and $ 100 million through debt service and short-term obligations to renovate spaces over time without increasing the current tax rate for the service of the debt. “It’s bound to be a harder path to go, one that is slow and ultimately doesn’t quite look like Option 2,” said Riley.
Under Option 2, doing all of this through referendum funds, “We can do all the renovations at the same time. We cannot do a $ 100 million renovation in Option 1 all at once. it has to be over time, ”said Riley.
In short: “Same project. Different ways to finance it. Other timeline, ”Riley said. With both options, new university construction would take place at the same time, and these university facilities would be built outside the footprint of current buildings.
In addition, by holding a $ 260 million referendum for Option 2, the district could fund projects to install in other schools and not exceed the current rate of the debt service tax.
Option 3 provides for new schools on current campuses north, south and west of Vigo and involves a referendum of $ 333 million. It would require a referendum tax rate of 52 cents, or 36 cents more than the current impact of the referendum. Everything in the schools would be new.
The district also anticipated the possible impact on taxpayers of the additional tax rate caused by a referendum on the proposed construction.
For a house with a market value of $ 200,000 and an appraised value of $ 97,750, the additional annual cost of Option 3 would be $ 352; for option 2, $ 243; and for option 1, $ 85. [Those figures do not include the 16.2 cents currently paid with the operating referendum, which would become part of the new facility referendum]
Haworth suggested that some non-university spaces could be consolidated into one location and involve partners, such as a performing arts center.
The district will showcase the three high school scenarios at several upcoming community meetings, and Haworth hopes to gauge public support for a construction referendum. He will also conduct telephone surveys and use a digital tool called “Thought Exchange” to get community feedback.
Haworth hopes to come up with a scenario by the end of December or early January, but the district must first determine if there is public support.
Through past community meetings and other means of public feedback, the district has heard the following: The community wants three high schools, and it doesn’t want a “band-aid” approach to solving structural problems major.
He wants high school facilities that support trades, hands-on learning and STEM with improved technology. Citizens also want flexible and collaborative spaces in classrooms.
In addition, the community wants to limit the fiscal impact, but it wants a significant project.
Going forward, “Our job is to figure out which project our community wants and which they will pay for,” said Haworth.
He doesn’t believe the community will support a phased approach, where one school building is built first and others in years to come. “I don’t believe you can win a referendum” with a quirky approach, said Haworth.
Many in the community have said they want three new high schools, and with now limited options, the district is looking to educate people on what it will cost, Haworth said.
All three options are important and “will address the issues of the day,” he said. With information on options, costs, and tax impacts, the public can determine “is there a dollar amount threshold that is important to you and, if so, which option fits that threshold.”
Sue Loughlin can be reached at 812-231-4235 or [email protected] Follow Sue on Twitter @TribStarSue.