Board Members Get First Look At New School
The Mercer County Board of Education approved a new tax rate and reviewed preliminary designs for the new elementary school.
First, the board unanimously approved increasing the 2023-2024 tax rate from 70.2 per $100 for real estate and 70.6 per $100 for personal property to 71.6 per $100 for real estate and personal property. Finance Officer Amber Minor projected the new tax rate would generate $10,604,801 in possible revenue. Before the vote, Minor took the board through their options under House Bill 44, including a compensating rate of 68.9 per $100 for real estate and 71 per $100 for personal property, which would generates same revenue as the year before, $10,231,143; a subsection rate of 73.8 per $100 for real estate and personal property, which would require a public hearing and would generate $10,932,478 in possible revenue; and leaving the rate unchanged, which would generate $10,461,283 in possible revenue.
Minor said the income estimates are based on a 100 percent collection rate, which she said never happen in real life.
“We are really more like a 96 percent collection rate,” Minor said.
She estimated the owner of a house worth $100,000 would see a $14 increase in their tax bill. Over the last 10 years, the tax rate has increased 7.6 cents per $100, about $76 total for a $100,000 home, Minor said. In the last eleven years the district has lost more than $6.3 million in revenue by not taking the four-percent increase every year, she said.
Minor asked the board to approve the four-percent increase this year. In addition to inflation, recent staff raises, the recently completed renovations to the athletic complex and federal grant money ending, Minor said the district will have to set aside general fund money for three years for the bonding on the elementary school project.
“This could definitely help with that,” Minor said.
Minor said 94 districts levied the four percent rate, the highest she has seen since she’s been a finance officer.
Superintendent Jason Booher recommend taking the four-percent increase.
“There’s no better investment than what you can do in on a kid in this community,” Booher said.
Board Chairman Randy Phillips asked for a motion. Board member Amber Franceschi moved to take the four-percent increase, with board member Billy G. Montgomery seconding. The motion passed unanimously.
The board also approved design documents, related to the new elementary school.
Beth Bauer of RossTarrant Architects and Aaron Shultz of CMTA Inc. told the board they were wrapping up the design work on the building. Bauer presented the board with illustrations of what the building could look like while Shultz took them through the building’s plumbing, fire protection, electricity and HVAC.
“I like to think of engineering as bringing the building to life,” Shultz said.
They said there were several more months of work to develop design drawings. The next step is construction documents and advertising for bids, followed by two years of construction. The estimated completion date is April 2026.
Bauer told the board the projected cost of the new building is $30.5 million, with a total project cost of more than $36.6 million, including other costs and a $1.5 million contingency.
“It’s a lot of money,” Bauer said. She said it’s on track with what they’re seeing with other projects.
The board voted to award the $17,000 contract to run a geothermal well test bore to T&M Drilling of Columbia. Before the vote, the board discussed the pros and cons of a geothermal system.
“Right now there is a grant to get geothermal, which is the most expensive HVAC system to have,” Booher said. He said the district would have to use bonds to fund the initial construction, then they get a refund from the federal government.
Shultz said the test bore would help inform the design of the system, helping them locate any possible voids, gas pockets or water aquifers. He said the test well will be integrated into the finished design.
Board member Cliff Prewitt asked what could prevent them from doing geothermal.
“Not much,” Shultz said. In his experience, he said he’d never seen a test drill lead them to not do geothermal. If they find a void the test well might have to be abandoned.
The board approved a $3,250 change order to the site survey to add additional areas to the survey. The change will add territory along US 127 bypass to where they could connect to existing utilities.
“We just need a little more surveying,” Shultz said.
The board also agreed to pay $1,500 to Brown Sprinkler Corporation to conduct a flow test to learn what the local water source utility can provide as far as force and pressure..
The board also approved Kentucky Utilities easements for the power pole service, transformer and an additional easement along the north west edge of property to provide three phase power to another customer for potential future use.