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Committee brings questions about Turner school proposal

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Gina Duwe
January 9, 2013

— Members of an ad hoc committee brought a variety of questions to Beloit Turner School District administrators about a proposed $28 million referendum to build a new high school Tuesday night, a week before the board votes on the project.

Questions ranged from the cost of adding an auditorium to what the tax impact would be if the project didn't happen this year. The committee met to hear the latest numbers on the project, ask questions and be able to disseminate the district's information to resident.

The school board will hold a special meeting at 6:30 p.m. Tuesday at the middle/high school library to discuss and vote on whether to hold an April referendum to build a 600-student school.

Superintendent Dennis McCarthy said $28 million is the set number that the construction must match, and plans have changed constantly—and will continue to—throughout the process.

The school started at about 165,000 square feet, and the latest plan is down to about 145,000 square feet. Of that, more than 8,000 square feet is for mechanical space, leaving about 137,500 square feet of useable area, said Matt Wolfert of Bray Architects.

Construction costs would be about $190 per square foot, he said.

The plan does not include an auditorium, which can range from an extra $6 million to $8 million, Wolfert said. He pointed out a space on the plans where an auditorium could be added on in the future.

The gym would fit three basketball courts with curtains between each or allow two competitive games with seating at the same time.

Administrators have not said open enrollment is the main purpose of the project as was stated in a previous Gazette article, McCarthy said. Increasing enrollment, however, is one reason for the project, he said, and the board made a conscious decision over the last few years to increase the number of students through open enrollment.

He outlined a handout the district plans to put on its website for reasons for the project, including low interest rates, facility planning for the future, student safety and grade configuration, lowering the student population at Townview Elementary and continued growth in programs and offerings.

One committee member said the information was helpful and requested the handout be sent to all parents. McCarthy agreed and said the district will make more information available to the public.

Here are a few of the questions from committee members:

Q: What does the $28 million include?

A: About $2.3 million of that is for site preparation and the cost to extend Bartells Drive to the site of the new high school, which is on district-owned land behind the current middle/high school, Wolfert said.

Construction costs include carpeting, ceilings, utilities, wiring and hook-ups for technology—but not the technology itself, such as a projector—and generally things affixed to the walls such as display cases, white boards, lockers and cabinetry.

The price tag also includes engineering and architectural costs as well as a construction contingency.

It does not include all new furniture, but furniture will be moved from the middle/high school, where furniture there will be replaced with furniture from other schools as grades are rearranged.

Q: If we don't act now on the low interest rates, what kind of tax effect would there be later?

A: Markets go in cycles, said Brian Brewer of Robert W. Baird & Co., the district's financial adviser.

Federal officials have said they will keep rates low until at least next year, he said. When rates go up is based on many factors, one being the economy. Rates would increase as the country experiences economic growth and job creation, he said.

For every 0.5 percent increase in the interest rate, taxpayers with a $100,000 would pay $25 more, he said.

Q: Is there an advantage of passing the referendum in April versus November?

A. From a market standpoint, it allows the district to lock in rates sooner, Brewer said.

There is no general election in fall, so the district would have a small cost to hold a special election, Wolfert said.

There is a design/construction advantage to an April referendum because it would allow for construction to start in the spring of 2014 with the building being enclosed by the late fall, he said. While labor costs still are competitive, gas and oil prices—a huge piece of building costs—are both going up, which could add a "pretty significant cost" to waiting a year, he said.



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