Bureau Valley School Board seeks $12 million bond issue
MANLIUS – Framed basketball uniforms from Bureau Valley’s founding school districts — Manlius, Walnut, Wyanet, Buda and Sheffield — cover part of a wall in the room where the Bureau Valley School Board met in special session Tuesday night.
The seven board members’ focus was not on the past, though, but on the 22-year-old district’s future as they reviewed more than $11.1 million in building expansions and facility upgrades proposed at three sites, then voted 6-1 to place a $12 million bond referendum on the March 20 ballot to pay for it.
The project’s centerpiece is a slightly more than $6.1 million classroom addition on the west side of Bureau Valley High School in Manlius to house all district junior high students and third- through fifth-graders from the south portion of the district.
A new $3.4 million gym addition on the high school’s east side, for use by junior high and elementary students, is part of the expansion, and other smaller projects in Wyanet and Walnut are planned.
“I’m excited about the educational opportunities this could bring to our students,” board member Lynn Olds said.
“I think the public is ready,” board member Matt Wiggim said. “I think it’s a good plan.”
If the referendum is approved, taxpayers could expect the district’s tax rate, about 94 cents per $100 assessed valuation, to stay essentially the same.
That’s because bonds for the initial construction of the high school in the 1990s will be paid off and the tax levy is set to drop. But if voters say yes to the referendum and the 94-cent rate is retained, it could pay off the $12 million bond issue in 12 years, David Pistorius from First Midstate Investment Bankers said.
Other advantages to the project as presented, compared to a previous plan vetoed by voters, are that it is $5 million less costly, all the work would be done at once, and it won’t push up against the district’s debt limit.
In April, voters nixed a $17 million bond referendum, 1,610 to 604, that would have built a new school in Sheffield, made improvements or additions to Bureau Valley High School in Manlius and Bureau Valley North in Walnut, and ultimately shut down schools in Wyanet and Buda.
Tuesday night, other professionals spoke regarding the project’s architecture, engineering and construction.
As a drawing of the proposed additions was shown on a large video screen, Steve Nelson from Larson and Darby Group spoke by speaker phone about the plans, which feature about a dozen rooms devoted to junior high and half a dozen to grades 3-5, along with a multipurpose room, warming kitchen, offices, restrooms and other rooms.
Board member Kent Siltman, who cast the lone “no” vote, expressed concerns that the addition lacked a library, prompting a response from Superintendent Eric Lawson.
“My feeling is the need for media centers is obsolete,” Lawson said, pointing to the proliferation of handheld digital devices in education.
Siltman said he believes the reading of physical books is still important, commenting, “I would advocate for it (a library).”
Jeffrey Smith from Willett Hofmann & Associates said the engineering firm he represents would survey the entire property to plan drainage, sidewalks, parking lots, and sewer and water connections.
Plans call for the entire school complex to discontinue using a septic system and be hooked up to the village of Manlius’ wastewater treatment system That would entail a new 2,500-foot sewer line constructed from the school eastward to the village’s last manhole near the Kory building.
Chris Tyra of Midwest Construction Professionals broke down other aspects of the project:
• The size of the classroom addition would be 26,740 square feet; the gym addition would be 14,275 square feet. A contingency of more than $300,000 was built into the cost estimates, he said.
• $1.5 million would be spent to provide new heating, ventilation and air conditioning upgrades at Bureau Valley North in Walnut and Bureau Valley Wyanet, plus gym bleacher replacement at Bureau Valley North.
• $60,000 would be spent to resurface the parking lot at Bureau Valley North.
• Another $60,000 would be spent to resurface the parking lot at the existing high school.
Board President Don King said the project would provide “added educational value” to students and families, and that with any extra money left over, other needed projects could be undertaken.
“Bureau Valley needs something to happen. It really needs something to happen,” King said.
King said he expects that informational meetings regarding the referendum would be scheduled in January and March, ahead of the March 20 primary.