The Fox C-6 Board of Education is expected to vote Tuesday, Jan. 21, whether to place a bond issue on the April 7 ballot, asking to sell between $35 million and $40 million in bonds to finance various improvements for schools throughout the district.
The board meeting will start at 7 p.m. at the Fox C-6 Service Center, 849 Jeffco Blvd., in Arnold.
Fox school officials have until Jan. 28 to place the bond issue on the April 7 ballot.
A bond issue would require a four-sevenths (57.14 percent) vote for approval.
John Brazeal, Fox’s chief financial officer, said the district could sell up to $40 million in bonds without a tax increase. However, the bond issue would extend the district’s bond debt for an additional 20 years.
The district’s current debt service levy is 39 cents per $100 of assessed valuation, and Fox’s overall tax levy is about $4.57 per $100 assessed valuation.
Board members discussed the issue Dec. 17, when Scott Barbagallo, the district’s director of facilities, outlined top needs for each district building.
“There is a clear need to address issues with facilities districtwide, and I think that a no-tax increase bond issue is a good way to solve a lot of problems,” board member Vicki Hanson said.
Last year, the district asked voters to approve $70 million bond issue, which would have cost taxpayers an additional 40 cents per $100 of assessed valuation.
That bond issue, referred to as Proposition S, also needed a fourth-sevenths (57.14 percent) majority to pass and received 5,153 (54.74 percent) yes votes and 4,260 (45.26 percent) no votes.
Board member Jim Chellew said he didn’t think the community was ready to pay more taxes last year.
However, he noted that the measure nearly passed, and he believes if the district asks for a bond issue that does not raise taxes, it would have a good chance of being approved.
“I think the community is providing us the level of support we need to do a $35 million bond issue,” Chellew said. “We can get a lot of work done for that. It may not be everything that we would really like to do, but the truth is, I have been in this community all of my life, and they are always very good about taking care of our needs. When it gets to the point where you are (asking for) wants and things you would like to have, they don’t always support that.”
Barbagallo said he compiled a list of possible facility improvements after asking all the principals what they felt the top five needs in their buildings were, and administrators also made a list of each building’s top needs.
To cover all the improvements on the list from principals, it would cost Fox an estimated $44.9 million, and the administrators’ list of desired improvements would cost about $45.1 million. Those two lists included many of the same projects, district documents said.
“Between our administrative staff at the buildings, and our top administrative staff of the superintendent, assistant superintendents and myself, we are all pretty much on the same page,” Barbagallo said. “We all can agree on the most major needs for most every building.”
He said the district has identified the top three needs: building a new Antonia Elementary School, expanding and making improvements at Meramec Heights Elementary School and creating an additional instructional wing and making other improvements at Fox High School.
“What we see is we are spending more to operate them than what they are worth,” Barbagallo said. “To keep them operating, we are having to invest in them a lot. We don’t want to spend long-term money on a short-term solution.”
Board president Carole Yount said the district needs more revenue to address those improvements.
“I would like to see a no-tax increase bond issue passed in April so we can do what we can with whatever funds are available to take care of those three buildings,” board president Carole Yount said. “We all know we need more money. Whether we are all on the same page in how to handle it, I’m not sure.”
School officials said they have tried to address some of the needs with existing funds. For example, the board allocated $3.8 million for facility improvement projects as part of its 2019-2020 budget.
Even if voters approve a $40 million bond issue, the district could use even more, school officials said.
According to documents presented at the Dec. 17 board meeting, the district could spend an estimated $150 million to improve building security, upgrade ADA compliance, repair or replace HVAC equipment, repair or replace roofing, repair or replace pavement, repair or replace communication and alarm systems and begin replacement of aged-out buildings.
“Our district has many needs,” board member Judy Smith said. “We are still working through principal and administration thoughts. We will continue discussing and prioritizing these needs.”
If voters approve a $40 million bond issue, Brazeal said the district could sell bonds in two cycles, selling $25 million in bonds in the first cycle and, after a large principal payment that is scheduled to be paid in 2022, another $15 million in bonds in the second cycle.
In that scenario, Brazeal said the district probably would sell the first round of bonds this year, which would extend the district’s debt to 2040, and the second round of bonds would be sold in either 2021 or 2022, which would extend the debt to 2041 or 2042.
In 2022, Fox is scheduled to pay off $3,320,000 of its current debt, which would bring the district’s debt down to $21,849,963. Fox’s general obligation debt entering this year is $29,269,963, and the district is scheduled to pay off $2,600,000 of that debt this year, according to board documents.
“It is a lot to think about,” Yount said. “Our board, we are from this community. We are aware of how it affects individuals in the school district, because we are affected the same way. But we also know what needs to be done to keep our kids safe and secure in buildings. It is about more than securing a door. There are HVAC systems that do not work, so kids come into a room that isn’t cool or heated. We just have to make it better for them.”