Monday, May 14, 2012

Piper facilities committee recommends $3.8 million bond for 2013


If a committee of Piper residents has its way, voters inside the Piper School District's boundaries will be voting on a $3.8 million in about a year.

Formed earlier this year, the Piper Strategic Directions Committee was given the task of developing a potential plan for the school district's crammed facilities caused by a dramatic student enrollment growth period the past seven years.

On Monday, details of the most popular plan discussed were released to the Piper Board of Education.

The plan: A $3.8 million bond that would add six classrooms at Piper East Elementary School and four classrooms at Piper High School.

The committee also recommended officials inside the Piper School District should begin "educating" the community on the need for a new high school in the near future.

Chris Schneider, in outlining the plan for Piper board members Monday night, said the number is one that was agreeable with everyone.

"This is the option everyone could agree on," Schneider said. "It's easy to add general education classrooms to the buildings."

Though the specific financial impacts are not available right now due to the possibility of a changing school finance formula, there are some early estimates of how much a $3.8 million bond would impact Piper residents.

Two scenarios presented during the meeting indicated residents would pay an additional $22.68 to $68.16 or $13.56 to $40.80 of taxes for one year, depending on state aid from the State of Kansas and the value of a resident's property in Piper.

No action was taken tonight on the matter, but board members chimed in the proposal.

Rick Kaminski said the dollar amount was high just for classrooms and questioned if it was better to do a larger project.

"This is a lot of money for just classrooms," Kaminski said, adding that the average classroom would cost $380,000 based on the construction estimates. "Are we doing the smart thing by not building the high school now or not?"

However, building a high school would result in a significantly larger tax increase for Piper voters, something that might backfire in what might be a down economy in 2013.

Schneider said early estimates to build a 1,000 student capacity high school would come in at $55 million.

A $55 million bond would result in a tax increase of hundreds of dollars for residents in Piper and the plan was not too popular among the committee members.

The Catch-22, Schneider says, is the fact the $3.8 million bond would be far from the final solution to deal with the enrollment boom in Piper.

"A majority of people on our committee understands this is just a $4 million Band-Aid," he said.

Piper Superintendent Steve Adams said the school district is expecting 146 new students next year. If the enrollment projection holds, it would put Piper's enrollment at 1,950 students, resulting in a 7.5 percent increase.

To put the enrollment situation in current terms: This year's graduating senior class inside the Piper School District was 98. Next year's kindergarten class entering Piper is expected to be around 150 to 160 students.

No vote was taken on the proposal.