By David Howell
WATER VALLEY – Work has already started at the Water Valley School District on a lengthy improvement list that ranges from renovations at the district’s two schools and security upgrades to the possible addition of a middle school.
The multi-million dollar investment will be funded in a two-step plan that started last month with borrowing $1.15 million using a three-mill note to address immediate needs in the district. The list includes the purchase of two buses; security upgrades; installation of air conditioning, a new floor and new roof for the high school gym; a new phone and intercom system in both schools; a new roof on the elementary school building and other projects. The three-mill note is a funding option in Mississippi that allows school districts to pledge up to three mills for a specific project without issuing bonds.
The bulk of the planned work will be funded by issuing general obligation (GO) bonds, a lengthy process that will include a referendum requiring support from 60 percent of the voters who live in the district and turn out for the election.
The actual dollar amount the school will need for the work has not been identified, but the school’s bond capacity is just under $7 million. The idea to issue general obligation bonds for improvements has been a matter for discussion during the last year after the general obligation bonds issued in 1998 were retired in May.
During a February work session, Young Law Firm Attorney V. Warren Greenlee explained that the school has been levying millage to pay approximately $150,000 annually to retire the 1998 general obligation bonds. Based on that amount, Greenlee estimated the school district could borrow $2 million without raising taxes. At the March 5 meeting, a lengthy list of needs indicated the price tag could be closer to the top end of the school’s bonding capacity.
Identifying the Cost of the Work
The school board voted at their June 25 meeting to hire Mills & Mills Architects to oversee the proposed projects.
“We have to do this to have an idea of the costs,” Trustee Pierce Epes noted at last week’s meeting before the board voted unanimously to hire the firm at a cost of $10,000. Epes also noted that 40 to 60 percent of the fee will be credited back to the job if a bid is awarded for the project. A bid notice appears on page 12 of the Herald.
Work Already Underway
One of the first projects funded using the $1.15 note that is currently underway is the installation of an intercom/voice-over IP phone system that will update the phones at the two schools and central office in the district. The system will also replace the outdated intercom systems in the classrooms. The board approved a $93,874 bid for this project in February, but delayed the work until the summer months when school is out so workers can run the wires in the halls and classrooms without disrupting the learning environment.
Also scheduled this summer is the installation of a new camera system at both schools. Trustees tabled a $43,817 bid for the system for the installation of 43 cameras at the schools that will replace an outdated system that currently utilizes 28 cameras. The bid was tabled to allow more research on the bandwidth required for the camera system before moving forward.
This project is also funded from the $1.15 million note.