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SPS board to vote on task force recommendations

Projects would be funded in three bond issuances for $467 million if approved by school board and voters

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The Springfield Public Schools Community Task Force on Facilities selected nine projects for funding to the tune of $159.76 million for the first of three bond issuances in their final recommendations report released on Oct. 15.

The 30-person task force recommended the SPS Board of Education proposes to voters an 18-cent levy increase in 2019 for funding the first bond issuance. This comes after five months of touring facilities, reviewing the SPS Strategic Plan and studying enrollment, feeder patterns and district demographics, according to the report.

“I think the recommendations well represented the thoughts of the group and is a great reflection of consensus built,” said task force member Mike Brothers.

The volunteer task force was put together after a first attempt to fund school projects failed on the ballot in April 2017.

“We were very attentive to feedback from voters in terms of more detail and approach, and have been responsive to their concerns,” said Jill Patterson, SPS school board president.

A $189 million bond issuance proposal was rejected in April 2017, when a 57 percent supermajority was needed to pass under Missouri law for bond elections. The proposal received 51 percent of the 27,481 votes collected, according to past Springfield Business Journal reporting.

The 2017 proposal would have phased in a 24-cent increase to the debt-service levy.

This time, the total cost of all three bond issuances is $467 million, with final decisions to be made by the school board. The SPS board vote could come as early as Nov. 27.

The second and third bond issues would be recommended in 2023 and 2026.

The projects the task force selected for the first bond issuance are four renovations, four new buildings and one addition, according to the report.

“The idea of a renovation is gutting it down to a brick and concrete box and essentially put a new school in the box,” Brothers said. “This is not some new paint and floor tiles.”

The renovation projects are for secure entrances at 21 schools, totaling $4.8 million; Hillcrest High School, Phase 1, for $24.75 million; Sunshine Elementary School for $13.89 million; and Williams Elementary School for $14.32 million.

The new building projects are Jarrett Middle School for $41.54 million, Boyd Elementary School for $20.34 million, Delaware Elementary School for $23.78 million and a southwest early childhood center on the Carver Middle School campus for $12.68 million.

The addition would be for an early childhood mini-hub for $3.65 million at the Williams Elementary School campus on the city’s northwest side. A mini-hub system is where three to five childhood classrooms are co-located with a neighborhood school to serve two or three adjoining neighborhood schools, according to the report.

Bonding and phasing
The task force considered two funding options for the projects, a 12-cent tax levy increase or an 18-cent increase.

The 12-cent increase was projected to generate roughly $135 million in four years. The 18-cent tax levy increase was projected to generate $170 million over the same time frame.

“The 18-cent increase just fit the need and seemed like the best way in the time frame,” Brothers said of the task force’s selection.

Stretching out the projects to four bond issuances also was considered, but the time frame of 15 years for completion was a deterrent to the task force.

The second bond issue carries a no-tax levy extension recommendation in 2023 for $124.27 million in funding, according to the report.

Projects in the second-priority bond issuance are the second phase of Hillcrest High School renovations, for $11.13 million; renovation of Pipkin Middle School, for $33.72 million; new construction of Robberson Elementary School, for $21.15 million; new construction of York Elementary School, for $19.67 million; and elementary school gym additions, for $21.6 million, according to the report.

The second bond issuance also includes a $17 million first-phase renovation at Pershing K-8, which the task force deferred to the board to consider additional, lower-cost options, according to the report.

The third bond issuance proposes a 6-cent increase in 2026 for eight renovation projects and second-phase renovations of Pershing for a total of $185.5 million. The renovation projects identified in the report are Glendale High School, for $35.18 million, Reed Middle School, for $34.69 million, Pleasant View K-8, for $14.95 million, Bingham Elementary School, for $14.96 million; Bisset Elementary School, for $12.88 million; Bowerman Elementary School, for $14.13 million; Rountree Elementary School, for $17.01 million; and the Campbell Early Childhood Center for $5 million.

School struggle
While Brothers said he was pleased with the final results, a few struggles arose during the five-month process.

“Closer to the end, we had to prioritize, and that was tough,” he said. “It’s not to say the buildings and projects identified in the second and third issuances are minor or less worthy.”

The task force also had to juggle sequencing issues with only one middle school being worked on at a time due to student relocation.

Sunshine and Delaware elementary schools were included in the first bond issuance so students could be relocated during construction of Jarrett, according to the report.

The task force had to vote three times before reaching a consensus on the Reed, Pipkin, Robberson and Williams school projects.

“We flipped on Pipkin,” Brothers said. “Initially, we were going to build new.”

The task force recommended that York and Bowerman not be converted to early childhood centers, a choice that Brothers said was not tough at all.

“We spent almost no time discussing that,” he said. “It was a near unanimous decision.”

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