While the Board of Education is currently reviewing and updating a budget draft to be approved at the end of June, they are also looking at the district’s capital projects plan – and how it fits into the big picture.
Assistant Superintendent John Oliver gave the board an update of expenditures since ESPLOST II, with projected revenues through the remaining fiscal year.
"SPLOST II is ending. We get the last payment this month, but in reality, there will be another check in June, followed by the first SPLOST III check," Oliver said. "The local voters were super enough to schedule it so that it’s a continuation and moves right into SPLOST III."
Financial Advisor Melanie James said the total available funds for capital projects is $53.3 million, including money from the local capital reserve, bond sales, SPLOST II proceeds, state funds, transfer’s from the general fund and interest earnings.
Since 2003 and the beginning of SPLOST II, the district has spent $29.6 million on completed projects. There is $14 million currently invested in projects that are underway and $27.3 million is allotted for upcoming projects – including the new Richmond Hill Middle School, estimated to cost $23 million.
"All together, you can see that’s $71 million dollars in expenditures, minus $53 million in available funds," Oliver said. "So with this proposed capital projects plan, you get an $18 million deficit."
To make up the shortfall, the board has approved selling $20 million in bonds to be repaid through SPLOST revenues, with the ultimate goal being to earn more in revenue than the bonds cost. Bonds are currently selling at a very low interest rate, making it a good time for the board to make this decision, James said.
Chairman Eddie Warren said he is concerned the current economy might mean it’s not a good time to sell bonds, but James said she thinks it has a lot to do with the fact that it’s an election year.
"Bonds let you do the project now, instead of waiting to start your project. If you could pay as you go, you wouldn’t worry about selling bonds," James said. "But when it’s a $23 million school project, the SPLOST proceeds pay back the bonds."
Additionally, not all anticipated projects will happen in the upcoming fiscal year, putting the district in good shape, Oliver said.
"We have continued to keep some of these projects on paper – like the $1.2 million set aside for Lanier – that won’t happen in the next fiscal year," Oliver explained. "But it’s in the plan simply because, at some point in the future, growth will be happening and this money will be there to accommodate any additions or renovations necessary. So it’s in there because those additions or renovations will likely happen in the next two to five years."
During the overview, board members Jeff Morton and Judy Crosby asked about getting new lighting for the girls’ softball fields.
"It really needs to be updated, they’re having to end games early because it gets too dark," Crosby said. "It’s been a problem for a number of years and it’d be nice to add it to the list of projects."
The board was all in agreement that the lighting should be updated for the fields in both ends of the county.
In other business:
- The board decided to choose Key Risk Insurance Company for next year. The district’s current plan ends June 30 and the new plan was a low bid of $248,722.
- With the new wings at RHPS completed, all pre-K can now be housed in the portables there. The portables at RHES will now be open, leaving room for growth there. In School Suspension and Alternative school for Richmond Hill students will also start being held in the south end of the county. ISS in the north end will continue being held at Black Creek until the central office is complete there.