Superintendent Asks School Board to Send Bond Referendum to City


In a note to the Decatur School Board as part of their July 11th meeting, Superintendent Phyllis Edwards writes…

A first step is to ask the Board to approve submitting the referendum to the City Commission. We are hopeful that we can meet the short timeline by getting this item to the City immediately. We are asking that it be reviewed the third week in July and perhaps the first week in August.

I have also requested a joint session by contacting Peggy Merriss. I am hopeful that at one of these sessions, we can present the Master Plan as decided at the May Board Meeting.

This will be a push to make sure that we meet all necessary dates. For this reason, this is a time sensitive issue.

The attached Master Plan is a two phase process, though I’m not entirely sure which plan was ultimately decided upon.

DHS rendering courtesy of Master Plan

20 thoughts on “Superintendent Asks School Board to Send Bond Referendum to City”

  1. the attached Master Plan seems to be focused on meeting 2018 demand, which is reasonable, but given we’ve begun to entertain the idea of Zero Build (ZB), this message i just posted in the ZB thread from yesterday seems appropriate here:

    the answers to a couple of questions would impact my evaluation of the Zero Build idea:

    assuming the primary reason for all of the proposed new construction is to accommodate the baby bubble that’s presently passing through our school system, what are projections for student population beyond 2018?


    once the present bubble has graduated DHS, will we then be overbuilt for the student populations that will follow, or are we projecting a level population, post 2018, that’s roughly equal to the bubble for which all of the new construction was targeted?

    surely we aren’t the only community who has seen this kind of demographic phenomenon. can we gather any insight from growth patterns in similarly sized communities who’ve gentrified as we have?

    seems to me if we do project post 2018 student populations to level at ~90% of the bubble, it’s advisable to build to meet that demand now while interest rates are low. OTOH, if we expect the population to return to ~60% (pulling numbers out of my butt here) of the bubble, then i’d be in favor of more temporary/less permanent solutions.

  2. In the Master Plan information provided by CSD it states if no improvements are made by 2018 “it is projected that the Decatur High School would require up to 32 Portable Classrooms to accommodate its growth.” Is there enough room on the DHS campus to support 32 trailers?

    1. probably not. and i’ve read where they ran the numbers on the cost of procuring that many trailers vs. the cost of new construction and common sense gave the nod to new construction, where at least we’d end up with permanent assets moving forward.

    2. Even if the site can accomodate 32 trailers, there are requirements imposed by the state Board of Education that would require expansion of some of the common facilities such as the cafeteria, library, and gym to meet the needs of those numbers of students. Trailers only address classroom space shortfalls.

  3. Why the rush? Such massive decisions and resulting debt burden and resulting tax burden on the citizens should have a community wide discussion – including the 67% of Decatur’s population without children in the schools.

    As mentioned earlier, if this comes to fruition, the school millage rate will TRIPLE to 3 mills, and this does not include the operating costs. On a $400,000 home, just the debt repayment will add over $500 annually which swells to $1500 with projected staffing costs.

    1. And raising taxes may only make the problem grow larger much faster. My no-kids household would seriously consider selling and heading out of town in lieu of higher taxes. It is very safe to assume my home would likely be bought by a family with kids, as that’s what has happened to 100% of the homes that sold in the last 5 years in my area.

      This all seems to be going way too fast for my comfort.

    2. interest rates are a consideration, as they are on an uptick. The amount extra for that on our tax bills is also a consideration. How much flexiblity is there in the Master Plan between now and when the ballot item is officially submitted? Is there room for changes in the plan and corresponding dollar amount resulting from the joint City/CSD session, and/or community feedback? Can the ballot approve a higher amount but CSD decide on a less expensive plan and just not issue some of the bonds?

    3. Do you have a source for the millage rate increase? Just a back-of-the-envelope swing at the estimated debt service load doesn’t support anything near that, but maybe you’ve seen something I haven’t.

        1. The master plan option 3 shows an increase in the bond rate from 1.42 to 2.46 mils or an additional $208 on a 400K assessment.

          1. 1.42 is millage for the 2013 Debt, it does not take in to account the necessary millage to cover the $59.5 million. Plus when you look at CSD Master Plan on page 11 which is a financing summary, it shows $78 million at 20 years having a millage rate of 3.96 and $396 on a $200,000 home. If we look at 25 years, the millage is 3.42 and $342 on a $200,000 home. Most homes are coming in close to $400,00, not $200,000.

            Of course this is all to say WHERE is the financing summary for the option that is under consideration. What is the impact of the debt on the average Decatur taxpayer?

            1. Read page 12. It lays out the millage impact of option 3, which is what is being proposed. It would increase the bond millage by 1.04.

          2. And just for more context, the school system operation millage rate is 20.9. So combine the two, operational 20.9 and bond 1.42, and you get an overall millage rate of 22.32. If the bond referendum passes this would increase to 23.36, a 4.6% increase.

            So my first comment is, everyone needs to simmer down about the tax impacts of this bond referendum. And the reason why is my second comment:

            The real hit to our wallets will come from the cost of educating twice as many students. Think about it – a debt service increase of $2-4 million a year vs. a salary increase of $24 million a year. Where is that money going to come from?

            I came across this “oh crap” moment last night while looking at the budget. Many of you are right in saying that we can’t afford this massive enrollment explosion, but not because of the cost of buildings. We’ve got serious problems to solve.

            1. TeeRuss, thanks for bringing some firm numbers to this question. The size of the bond is intimidating, but debt service doesn’t sound too bad if your numbers are right.

              You raise a good point- if the cost is really about operating expense and not capital, our discussions around zero build are likely moot. Nobody has argued that we should degrade the quality of education, which means we cannot realistically stop the growth enrollment.

              This is why expanding the tax base is so important.

  4. reposting my crazy idea from the Option Zero thread:

    COD asserts Imminent Domain over the AT&T campus at E.College and Eastlake and have it house whatever grades we need most. maybe it becomes our second high school.

    Prior to AT&T’s purchase it was owned by Oakhurst Baptist. It has tons of classroom space that would likely require few modifications, plus ample playground areas. It would make for a lovely school campus.

    it’s an easily walkable/ridable distance for most residents.

    cost? my WAG is $15-20MM. which compared to a temporary solution landing at $7MM and new construction at $58MM seems a steal and a solution that could be brought quickly online following the transaction.

  5. Hard to believe the 1965 building and front grounds will change this much. Feeling kinda sad… and old. I wonder if those around in 63 were shocked to see the old Girl’s High completely disappear in the conceptional drawings of the new school. And what ever happened to the facade of the old Boys High/ North building?

  6. Wow. They are really putting all that new tax revenue to use. In my time at Decatur High, it was such a humble setting. We still had to play basketball games at the rec center. I’d be sad to see the architecture change this much.

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