HAZARD – Members of the Perry County Board of Education, along with staff from the district’s central office, toured the construction site for the county’s new elementary school last week, just before a meeting in which they approved a budget and several construction related items.
East Perry Elementary is scheduled to replace the aging Dennis Wooton Elementary beginning with the 2013-2014 school year, and will be able to accommodate 750 students in grades kindergarten through eighth grade. The campus also includes an athletic complex with a football and soccer field.
Construction is progressing well, according to Superintendent John Paul Amis, and the board took action on May 17 during its regular meeting to help ensure that a potential issue with sewer lines won’t lead to a temporary halt in construction.
District Finance Officer Jody Maggard explained to the board that while the school’s construction budget includes $150,000 for a package sewer treatment plant that would be located on-site, a more cost-effective measure would instead call for plans to hook into the City of Hazard’s sewer system. Doing so would alleviate any future costs of maintaining a localized treatment plant, Maggard noted, because once the lines are in place there will be no need for a package plant, and the city will pay for all future maintenance costs of the lines.
“The last thing that we want to do is install a sewer treatment plant,” Maggard said.
District officials have filed an application for a federal grant that would pay the $480,000 cost of connecting lines to the city’s system, with the exception of $97,000, which would be covered by the initial $150,000 already budgeted. Maggard said he is optimistic that this grant application will be approved, but requested that the board approve a resolution that they prefer the option to connect to the city’s sewer system, and tentative approval to pay for the sewer installation in the event that the grant is not approved. If the grant is not approved, he added, the district does have options, including coal severance funds that would pick up the cost of the sewer line installation, and that no money would come from the district’s general fund.
“If we get the grant there is no problem. If we get the grant, we match $97,000, they install the sewer system and we save $53,000,” Maggard said, adding that officials should know soon whether or not the grant has been approved.
The board’s resolution, which was unanimously approved, allows for contractors on site to include sewage lines in their design rather than a package plant. Otherwise, there was potential that work at the construction site could be halted as contractors waited for a final design in regard to sewage lines or a plant.
Either way, Maggard added, none of the cost for the lines will come out of the district’s general fund, and costs related to the new school’s construction has nothing to do with a lack of employees raises or similar costs.
“Any additional cost that we’re going to bear with installing this sewer has nothing to do with the general fund, has nothing to do with school money,” he explained. “It has nothing to do with getting a raise or not getting a raise, or a person getting hired or not getting hired.”
In other business, the board also approved a pay application on the new school project, along with several purchase orders. The pay application was approved for D.W. Wilburn, the general contractor for the project. Both the application and the purchase orders totaled $1,458,997.
Another item related to the project was a $17,000 change order to alter the design of the waterlines running to the school.
At present, according Project Manager Melinda Joseph-Dezarn, with the firm Ross-Tarrant Architects, the contractors are building the school with no utilities such as water or electricity present. The original design, which Joseph-Dezarn noted was completed without a final road plan from the owners of the adjacent property, called for the waterlines to be buried at a depth of three feet below the finished grade. The road plan was recently finalized, however, and will necessitate a change in the waterlines to a depth of eight feet.
“Essentially, when they put that road in, if we put the waterline in the way that it’s currently designed, they’re going to hit it,” Joseph-Dezarn explained. “We need to bury it deeper.”
The change was approved at a total cost of $17,200, which will be paid through a contingency fund included in the school’s construction budget.
The board also approved a tentative budget for the 2012-2013 school year, which is currently set for $38,555,000, or down roughly $300,000 from the current year allocations, according Maggard.
As of this month, the budget includes a contingency of 2.23 percent, which accounts for $861,000 to cover unexpected expenses that may arise during the year. While that figure remains above the 2 percent mandated by the state, Maggard noted that there is no cause for celebration considering the state’s ongoing economic woes.
“I would like to see it at five percent,” he said. “But with the current situation, you’ve got to take what you can get sometimes.”
A hit the budget has taken the past two years comes by way of reductions in allocations through SEEK, the state’s basic formula for funding education. For the past two years the state has mandated a mid-year SEEK reduction of over $300,000 each year. Maggard said he expects that to happen again this year.
“Do I expect that this year? Absolutely,” he told the board. “If they can do it two years and get away with, then why not go for three, and I think they will.”
The budget does not include allocations for the purchase of new school buses. The district was on schedule to purchase six new buses each year, but presently that’s not possible, Maggard said.
“Financially, there’s just no way that we can do that with our current budget,” he said. “That’s just impossible.”
There is an option in the next two years, however, of utilizing low interest loans to purchase new buses, which are coming with a price tag of up to $85,000 each.
In other business, the board also approved the design development for the Perry Athletic Complex, to be located beside East Perry Elementary. Superintendent Amis also noted that he recently met with an advisory council that will begin reviewing applications for the new principal of Perry Central High School. He said he expects to narrow applications down to three names, which he hopes to submit to the Kentucky Department of Education by early June. The final decision will be made by Kentucky Education Commissioner Terry Holliday.