The Fennimore Community Schools Board of Education unanimously approved an offer to purchase property adjacent to Fennimore Middle/High School during a meeting Tuesday evening, April 15.
The Board approved an offer of $150,000 to purchase the property at 580 7th Street, which is 29,505 square feet in size. Longtime Fennimore educator Linnie Bray most recently lived in the home on the property.
A meeting of the Fennimore Community School District’s electorate is needed to approve the purchase of the land. As such, the Board also approved a resolution to hold a meeting of the electorate.
“We have to follow the same parameters that we would any meeting of the electorate, which would be similar to an annual meeting,” District Administrator Jamie Nutter said. “The regulations call for two consecutive weeks of notice in the paper.
“The soonest we could hold the meeting would be May 7.”
What lies ahead for the property?
“Right now, there is not any immediate plans for the district,” Nutter said Tuesday morning. “We know for sure down the road at least part of the property we will need for some parking.
“That is feedback we have received from the community for years, we will need parking. What we really want to be able to do is eventually make that blend in with the rest of the facility up there. That is a long-term goal.”
Nutter did emphasize one thing that is not in the works for the property, squashing a rumor making the rounds in the “City on the Move.”
“There have been rumors we were turning it into a bus lot and that is not true,” he said. “There is no plan on moving the buses, and that was the biggest fear we had heard.
“There is no electricity or anything to plug the buses in. We are not going to develop all that land to park buses on.”
Earlier in the meeting, Nutter provided the Board with the latest information following the school district’s wildly successful referendum earlier this month.
Voters were asked to approve authorizing no more than $5,890,000 in general obligation bonds to fund the proposed renovation. An additional $500,000 of fund balance reserves will also be utilized.
The final tally was 1,025 votes in favor of the referendum question, with 202 votes opposed. In the City of Fennimore, 682 people voted in favor, with 97 votes in opposition.
The proposed renovation that will result includes a new lobby/commons area at the middle/high school and a new office. The addition of eight classrooms is proposed, as is a new gymnasium. The new gymnasium would be built adjacent to the existing middle/high school gymnasium, in essence creating a barrier between the middle school and high school portions of the building. Security upgrades will be made at Fennimore Elementary School as well.
Nutter told the Board last Tuesday night he will be interviewed for the school district’s official bond rating on or near May 1.
“They will ask questions in regard to our local industrial and economic development, chamber of commerce, equalized value, basically to create data for a portfolio for our district, so that they can sell the bonds to investors,” he said.
It is Nutter’s belief the school district may be a candidate for an A-minus or an A-plus rating due to the district’s equalized value and good financial statements.
“Looking at the A-minus and that A-plus, it could be that a difference of a couple basis points could save thousands of dollars,” he said.
Similar to a student preparing for an exam, Nutter plans to do his homework prior to the interview.
“[Robert W. Baird and Company] are going to give me materials that I basically have to study so when questions get asked I have quick answers for them, and they will tell me the points I need to make to get us the best deal possible,” he said. “Most of it is just making sure we give them all the facts that they need.”
In addition to the possibility of an A-plus rating, Nutter shared more good news in regards to interest rates. He has long projected interest rates related to the project would be 4.25 percent.
“What we hoped to do all along was give [the public] a worst-case scenario and have it get better and better,” he said. “We think possibly it is 3.3 or 3.4, that ballpark.
You can see just from going from 4.25 to 3.5 that saves a little over $500,000 in interest and drops that mill rate about eight percent from what we were projecting. That is always good news.”
The loan authorized by the April 1 vote will be over 20 years. A tax for a principal and interest payment will be levied each of those years.
The Board will meet Wednesday, May 14 to finalize the bond sales.
New graduation requirements
The Board unanimously approved the second reading of and amendments to policy 63.01, “Graduation Requirements – High School.”
As a result of the amendments, the number of credits required to graduate (24) will not change, but in what subjects the credits are earned will. Students graduating in 2017 and beyond will be required to earn three credits in both science and math.
Currently, students are asked to earn two credits in science and math. To offset the new requirements, students will be asked to earn 8.5 credits in electives, a drop from 10.5 credits.
“This was a new mandate from the state that requires a minimum of three credits in math and three credits in science to graduate,” Nutter explained.
In other action, the Board:
• approved the formation of a middle school volleyball program. Fennimore Middle School’s seventh and eighth grade girls will be eligible.
“By looking at this, the cost would be less than $400 to get them to eight events,” Nutter said. “I think it is a real good opportunity for our students for not a lot of cost.”
The program will be staffed by volunteer coaches approved by the school district.