By Ryan Richardson
WEBB CITY, Mo. —
Voters in the Webb City School District on Tuesday will not be voting for school board members, but will decide a $9 million bond issue proposal that officials say would add about 90,000 square feet of space to the district’s buildings.
That square footage would be housed in six shells across the district that would serve primarily as classroom space and activity centers, but would be constructed in such a fashion that they could serve as safe rooms if necessary.
Officials also note that because of the safe room roles the shells would play, the total cost of the additions would be subsidized by grants from the Federal Emergency Management Agency to the tune of 75 percent.
District officials estimate that the total project would cost $18 million, which includes constructing the safe room shells and then fashioning the interiors to accommodate other purposes. FEMA would pay $7.2 million toward the shells, leaving the district’s share of that portion of the project at $2.4 million. The interior work and furnishings would cost $8.4 million, pushing the district’s share of the total project to $10.8 million. That total would be obtained from the $9 million bond issue combined with $1.8 million from the district’s capital projects reserve fund.
Superintendent Tony Rossetti said that the district would not be able to construct the safe rooms without the FEMA grant.
“We can create additional learning environments while providing these safe rooms from the FEMA grant, which would be impossible to do with out it,” Rossetti said in an interview last week. “We have an opportunity to build something that can serve the community long after we are gone in addition to expanding our schools much cheaper than if we did this without the safe room aspect.”
The bond issue calls for the current debt-service levy to remain at 68 cents per $100 of assessed valuation, but be extended by about five years. The current debt of $26.65 million is now scheduled to be paid off in 2030. Under the proposal, it would take an additional five years to pay off the extra $9 million, according to Rossetti.
The district’s current total levy is $3.43 per $100 of assessed valuation, and is composed of the 68-cent debt service portion and an operating levy of $2.75. The impact of the $3.43 total levy on the owner of a house with a market value of $100,000 is $651.70 in annual school taxes.
Because the proposal involves taking on debt, a four-sevenths, or 57.1 percent, majority is required for approval. Rossetti estimated that the capital reserve fund would be left with $1.2 million after the $1.8 million was taken out of it to cover part of the project.
The six safe room locations proposed for the district are Harry S. Truman and Bess Truman Primary Center, Madge T. James Kindergarten Center, Webster Primary Center, Webb City Middle School, Webb City Junior High School, Webb City High School. An additional application is pending for Carterville Elementary School.
According to district plans, the elementary school shells would double as multipurpose rooms for activities such as indoor recess and physical education classes. However, Madge T. James Kindergarten’s shell would be used as a library. The middle school’s shell would double as a band room. The junior high school shell would become a library and a media center, while the high school shell would double as a gymnasium, which would be connected to the high school by a new cafeteria and a commons area.
All of the safe rooms would accommodate between 1,000 and 2,000 people, with the high school up to 3,000.
Except for that of Webster, all of the safe rooms would be open to the public. Webster already has a community safe room near it, Rossetti said.