HAZARD — During a special called meeting on Thursday, August 7, the Hazard Independent Board of Education voted to approve a slight increase in the tax rates for this year for property owners in the city school district.
The board adopted the compensating rate of 55 cents per $100 of assessed property value in the district, and added an extra 1.2 cents based upon exonerations, noted Superintendent Sandra Johnson, which brought the total rate to 56.2 cents. Last year’s rate was set at 54.2 cents for real estate and 54.6 cents for personal property.
Johnson said the district expects to generate roughly $400,000 for the general fund on the new rate. And while it is a slight overall increase, she said the current state of the economy was a consideration when the board voted to approve the compensating rate. The other option, Johnson explained, was what is termed the 4 percent option and is designed to generate 4 percent more revenue than the previous year. However, this would have required the board to increase the tax rate to 57.2 cents, which she said she would not recommend due to the city’s current economic environment.
The motor vehicle and utility taxes were not changed from the previous year’s rates.
The board also unanimously approved a bid for the Hazard High School renovation project.
Joey Clark, a representative for the architecture firm Clotfelter-Samokar, said there was good interest in the project, resulting in six bids. The lowest of these bids was placed by Elliot Contracting, a commercial contractor located in Pikeville, at $987,000.
Clark said several portions of the project were broken out in alternates, which are alternatives to the main bid providing for a change in the level of quality or scope of the work specified in the base bid. The alternates (site work, classroom renovation, door replacement, and window replacement), said Clark, bring the total price tag to about $1.4 million.
After discussions with Superintendent Sandra Johnson, Clark said it was their recommendation that the board accept the base bid from Elliot Contracting, along with the four alternates, because the bid was closest to the board’s original $1.2 million budget for the renovation project.
“I think that’s a really good bargain for the district,” Clark said.
Some concern was raised over what the remainder of the shortfall would do to the school system’s bonding potential. Johnson explained that the original budget was devised under a prior bonding potential, which, according to her, has gone up significantly since April.
Clark expressed confidence in Elliot Contracting to perform well on the project, after having had a good experience with the company when working on a project for Harlan High School.
The board’s next order of business was to approve a construction contract with Elliot Contracting, pending approval from the Kentucky Department of Education, and to approve a revised BG-1 for the renovation project, reflecting the revised bid amount and calculation fees.
Clark said this was basically a financial plan for how to get the project constructed and to determine how the project would actually be paid for. The total cost of the project, according to Clark, was estimated at around $1.75 million.
Glenn Brashear, a facilities bonding agent with Ross Sinclair & Associates, who has worked with the board for at least 10 years, explained that the school system had two sources of funding – money set aside from the Kentucky Education Reform Act (KERA) and the School Facilities Construction Commission (SFCC), which totaled $4.6 million in funds available for future projects. With the cost of the current project being subtracted out, he said, $2.18 million would still be left remaining.
The board ultimately approved a bond issue of $1.745 million, as well as the advertisement and public sale of the bonds.
Superintendent Johnson commented on the long process involved in the implementation of a school district’s facility program. After doing previous work on Roy G. Eversole and Hazard Middle School, formerly known as Walkertown Elementary, Johnson said they were reaching the final stages of the plan by renovating Hazard High School.
“We are very excited about the renovations taking place this year,” she said. “Renovations are being made to bathrooms and classrooms, and the library media center will receive a total renovation.”
Johnson indicated that she was even more excited about the renovations being done to the school’s office, which will be moved from the center of the building to the front.
“There will also be a security vestibule,” said Johnson. She continued by saying that the board’s interests are not only in upgrading and improving facilities, but in making those facilities as safe as possible for the students.
The board also approved a TC-4 form for emergency certification of substitute teachers.
Mindy Miller can be reached at 606-436-5771 or on Twitter @HazardHerald.