The Joplin Globe, Joplin, MO

February 7, 2013

Galena schools to gather input from public on building project

By Andra Bryan Stefanoni

GALENA, Kan. — The Galena School District will seek final public input on a building project that would require a bond issue of an estimated $6.5 million. A meeting is scheduled for 5:30 p.m. Friday in the James C. Christman Performing Arts Center.

Time is of the essence in terms of moving ahead on putting the issue to a public vote, administrators say, because of pending legislation that would reduce the district’s state bond aid by 10 percent starting July 1.

If Kansas House Bill 2005 were to pass, it would reduce state bond aid for school districts. In Galena’s case, it would reduce the aid from 68 percent to 58 percent, according to Superintendent Brian Smith, meaning the district would have to cover 10 percent more of the final cost of construction. He said that if the district decides to move ahead with the project, the bond issue would be put to a public vote on a June ballot.

“We would just squeak in under the deadline,” he said. “We haven’t set it up for election yet, but right now there is pretty good community support, based on the surveys we’ve already conducted.”

A bond issue that funded the performing arts center will be paid off in 2014. Smith said the district might be able to transfer 3 mills from that bond issue to reduce the property levy increase for any new construction.

He said the district estimates tax increases based on the district’s median home value, which is $50,000. Taxpayers with homes of that value might expect to pay an additional $50 a year if voters passed the bond issue, he said.

The district last fall hired an architect, Chad Greer with Corner Greer & Associates, of Joplin, Mo., to conduct phone surveys of residents, conduct feasibility studies and create initial renderings. A final cost won’t be determined until after all staff members, students and as many residents as possible have weighed in on all aspects of the project, Smith said.

After the public session Friday, the Board of Education will hold a retreat and meet with the architect to determine how to proceed.

“After this meeting, the architect can do some good solid conceptual drawings to present later,” Smith said. “We’re getting closer to what the cost might be.”

The project would include a new gymnasium to replace the current gym, which Smith said dates to about 1963.

“It’s outdated, we can’t host regionals in it, there are outdated locker rooms, there are problems with the flooring, and it’s not a regulation sized court,” he said. “It really takes away some opportunities.”

The project also would include additional classrooms at Spring Grove Primary School and Galena High School.

“Our science classrooms, for example, are 1950 models, and we need new ones pretty badly,” Smith said.

The current classrooms could be converted into another use to accommodate growth, he said.