By MARK EVANS
While borrowing $20 million is not something they take lightly, Ste. Genevieve R-II Board of Education members agreed that the district is in good shape to take on the added debt.
The board voted unanimously at its Dec. 21 meeting to put a $20 million bond issue on the April 5, 2022 ballot. The measure would not increase the debt service levy.
“I know that’s a very large number, $20 million,” superintendent Dr. Julie Flieg said.
She noted that Courtney Wegman of L.J. Hart & Company, the firm that has handled the district’s recent bonding projects, had expressed confidence that the district is in fine shape to take on the debt.
The district’s bonding capacity is $62,382,313, while it has a current debt service of $7,980,000. That makes the district’s general bond obligation capacity $55, 829,710.
“So, running a $20 million bond issue, you would still have an excess bonding capacity of $35 million,” Flieg said.
These figures are especially impressive considering they do not figure in any funds coming in from LaforgeHolcim. The international firm had made payments of about $2.9 million in lieu of taxes each year as part of a Chapter 100 agreement with the county. That began with the construction of the Holcim cement plant near Bloomsdale in 2010. They were supposed to come onto the tax roll in 2021, but are challenging the county’s assessment of their property. Therefore, for the foreseeable future, budgets must be done without figuring in any funds from Holcim.
Board president David Bova noted that if Holcim’s share could be counting, the district’s bonding capacity would be about $125 million.
The bond issue would not raise patrons’ tax rate. The debt service levy would stay at 44 cents per $100 of assessed valuation of real and personal property tax, where it has been since 2018.
The bond issue would address several immediate priorities, identified by the district’s facilities committee over the past two years.
An early childhood center would be constructed. Additionally, new entries, reconfigured office space, a gym expansion, heating/air conditioning (HVAC) upgrades and an Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA)-compliant entrance are all needed at Ste. Genevieve Elementary.
The middle school needs an elevator, counseling offices, a third floor bathroom and HVAC upgrades. Bloomsdale Elementary needs a double-gated entry, a heat pump and to address issues with its current lagoon. The high school needs a practice gym, a new weight room and a wrestling room expansion, as well as updated restrooms.
Other needs were also listed including a district-wide door lock system, plus lighting, fencing and bleachers at Yanks Field and Leon’s Field.
One of the big points is ADA compliance. An elevator needs to be added at the middle school, for instance.