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It’s Up to Voters, Now

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KPS school board calls for bond vote for new 7th & 8th grade center

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    PROPOSED FLOOR PLAN for the new 7th & 8th grade center.

The fate of a new school building for a system swelling in enrollment numbers will be in the hands of voters in the Kingfisher Public School district later this year.

Kingfisher Board of Education members voted unanimously Monday at a special meeting to approve a resolution calling for a special election on Sept. 10 at which voters will be asked to pass a $16.75 million bond issue.

If passed, the bond issue will allow for the construction of a new 40,500 square-foot building for seventh and eighth grade students in the area that is now the parking lot south of the APB on the high school campus.

Mike Copeland made the motion for the resolution and Jim Perdue seconded. Board president Carly Franks and Dana Golbek voted to pass it.

Member Charles Walker was absent from the meeting.

“We’ve worked on this for a long time with teachers, principals, community members and the architects,” Superintendent Jason Sternberger said. “I believe they’ve come back with an unbelievable product.”

The bond issue would provide funding for the new building, the necessary sidewalks and curbing around it, a new parking lot west of the high school to make up for lost spaces, canopies on the exterior of the new building, an added entrance to the APB on the northwest side and a new ticket booth to the football field because the current one on the east side would have to be moved due to the construction.

The bond issue would be paid out over a period of 10 years with five equal payments of $3.35 million due every other year (odd years).

If voters give the approval, this bond issue would hit the tax rolls as the current one, passed in 2016, rolls off.

“I believe this is a perfect time to bring the bond issue forward since the previous bond issue is coming off the tax rolls,” Franks said.

“And I feel this will provide room for growth within the district.”

The district has seen plenty of growth in recent years.

When Sternberger came to KPS in 2011, the district had 1,270 students.

It finished the 2018-19 school year with 1,519.

The district has avoided having to purchase temporary classrooms, but it has remodeled rooms in a maintenance building to make room for students at Heritage School and made other adjustments throughout the campus to fit students.

Talks about a potential new building have been ongoing for about two years and have included dozens of meetings with school staff and others open to the public for input.

Remodeling and/or building onto current structures were discussed as options.

The nearly unanimous consensus, however, was to seek a brand new building instead of pouring money into other aging ones. The current site and design were the results of those numerous meetings.

The new building would feature more than a dozen classrooms, including specialty rooms for music, art and special education students. It will also have a kitchen, commons dining area, media center, administrative offices and a storm shelter.

Although some parking spaces will be lost on the current lot, the campus will gain spaces overall with the construction of the new lot.

That lot will also be used for event parking, hence the added entrance to the APB from that direction.

The new building’s drop-off and pick-up driving lanes will be kept separate from any entrance and exits at the APB and high school.

“We wanted to make sure students or other drivers weren’t coming through that area where we’re going to have a lot of students,” Sternberger said.

There will also be new entrances to the campus on both 13th Street and Will Rogers Avenue.

To pass, voters have to give the bond issue a super-majority, or 60 percent “yes” votes.

If they do vote yes, how does it affect their taxes?

“I think it’s important for people to not look at the price tag and assume it’s going to make their taxes go up,” Sternberger said.

“They need to look at the millage rates.”

Fortunately for the district voters, millage rates are tied directly to net assessed valuation. Kingfisher’s NAV has nearly doubled since 2014-15, which has helped lower or level out the sinking fund millage rates.

The board learned last week the district’s NAV for 2019-20 is about $123 million, up about $10 million from 2018-19’s record high.

The NAV was just over $60 million in 2014-15.

At that time, Kingfisher’s millage rate was 15.32. It stayed steady the next few years before dropping to 10.98 in 2018 when the NAV started its historic surge.

If the bond issue passes, it’s projected to see the millage rate increase to approximately 14.57.

“That’s with no projected growth (in the NAV),” said Ryan McDonald of Stephen H. McDonald & Associates, the firm that was hired as financial consultants to the district during the process.

“A lot of times, these estimates are structured with growth,” McDonald continued. “This is the most conservative set of numbers you can have.”

However, noted McDonald, the district has experienced an average growth of 6 percent in NAV per year for the last 26 years.

So, he added, any bump in taxes would be minimal, about 4.29 percent from what patrons paid in 2018.

“And really, the millage rate would put us back in line with where we had been,” Sternberg-er noted.

The millage rate ranged from 15.33 to 17.75 from 2011 to 2017.

The board has also opted to pay for several features inside the building out of the general fund as opposed to including it in the bond issue.

Lockers, desks, electronic equipment and other items aren’t included.

“We’re only asking that they basically pay for the building,” Copeland said.

And, should bids come in higher than expected, it shouldn’t force the district’s hand as far as cutting back.

“A lot of times when that happens, you have to value engineer to save the money,” Sternberger said. “We’re in good enough shape right now, where we wouldn’t have to do that.”

The district had more than $5 million in carryover from the fiscal year that ended last month.