Before Thanksgiving, a survey went out online from Clinton School District Superintendent Brian Wishard and district staff. The survey, which consisted of 37 questions, listed all of the projects identified by school staff as important issues relating to the school district’s long-range facilities plan.
Its purpose —to find out what members of the community thought were priorities dealing with the maintenance of the school’s six buildings.
The answer: Bathrooms.
Upgrading bathrooms at Clinton Middle School and Henry Elementary and adding a bathroom at Clinton Intermediate School in a wing that has none made the top of the list, Wishard said.
Making the gymnasium in the middle school safer is also a priority — the bleachers have no hand rails — and adding seating on the floor level will make the gym more accessible. The floor also needs sanding and refinishing, he said.
“Right now our focus is primarily on Clinton Middle School,” Wishard said.
To pay for these and other projects, on April 2 Clinton School District will ask voters to approve the school district borrowing $14 million by issuing general obligation bonds. Approving the loan is not expected to increase the current debt service property tax levy of $0.8168 per $100 of assessed valuation of real and personal property.
Clinton Middle School had a facelift during the last facilities update, Wishard said, but it is the oldest building in the district and no work was done with the last bond. Built in 1960, its old bones are settling, and the foundation needs to be evaluated, he said.
Most visible to the public will be the repair of the uneven surface of parking lots, including the one that serves the middle school and the sports field behind it.
In addition to upgrading bathrooms, the tables and flooring in the Henry Elementary School cafeteria needs updating, and the school playground needs additions of equipment accessible to all children, Wishard said. The elementary school was built in 1969.
The artificial turf on the sports field may look good, but has reached the end of its (un)natural life. On a lawn, artificial turf lasts about 10 years. The sports field turf is 11 years old and needs to be replaced, Wishard said. The track is also due to be resurfaced.
Additional practice rooms for the middle school band room aren’t a top priority, but need to be addressed as the band program continues to grow, Wishard said. Risers in the band room will be removed to make better use of the floor space, he said.
Christian Meier, assistant superintendent, said the bond will also pay for removing lead paint from the soffits on the outside of the Early Childhood Center. An additional set of security doors inside the entrance to Clinton High School, which opened in 2010, need to be installed to limit access to the school by visitors until they are checked in at the office, he said.
Acquiring equipment that is now leased, including HVAC equipment, system controls and solar equipment, is also part of the planned use of bond funds. Solar equipment has been ordered and is due to arrive and be installed, Wishard said.
Clinton School District serves 1,780 students and is responsible for upkeep of six buildings, plus the district office. The graduating class this year is currently 139, according to Angie Lawson, district communications director, which is standard. So far, the school has 126 students in kindergarten this year, which is also average.
According to Lawson, 214 surveys were returned, of which the biggest number — 64 percent — were from people in the community who have children in the school district. District employees who have students in the school district accounted for 21 percent, she said, with 7 percent coming from school district employees who do not have a student in the district.
In addition to the survey, the district also factored in an assessment from an architectural firm in Kansas City. Incite Design Studio staff visited Clinton multiple times, Meier said, touring Clinton school campuses last spring, and returning in September to ask the teachers what they saw as facility needs.
For the school district to incur the $14 million debt by issuing general obligation bonds, it must have the approval of 57 percent of those who vote on April 2. A bond is a loan made by an investor to a borrower, in this case the school district. The rate of interest the bonds will pay is dependent on the entity’s credit rating. Clinton School District has an S&P rating of A, Meier said.
At the same time, Clinton School District is asking voters to approve reducing funds in its debt service account and transferring funds to the district’s operating budget to provide salary and wage increases for employees. In Missouri, teacher salaries are low, Wishard said, with $36,000 as the former base salary. The governor of Missouri raised this base salary to $38,000, he said, but the school district will not know until this spring if the governor’s current proposal to raise the base again will become law, and what percentage of the raise will be subsidized by the state.
The transfer request must be approved by 50 percent of the voters plus 1 of the people who vote on April 2. If approved, the District’s operating property tax levy will be adjusted by $0.15 from $3.0511 to $3.2011 per $100 of assessed valuation while the debt service property tax levy will be reduced by $.15.
As a result, the District’s total property tax levy will remain unchanged at $3.8679 per $100 of assessed valuation.
The Niche grade of a public school system affects the value of real estate in the district. Clinton School District has a grade of B- minus, based on academics, teachers, college prep and diversity. The condition of facilities is also factored into the grade.
Voters must be registered by March 6 to be eligible to vote on April 2.
The actual wording of the ballot:
Question No. 1
Shall Clinton School District No.124 of Henry County, Missouri, issue its general obligation bonds in the amount of $14,000,000 for the purposes of acquiring, constructing, improving, renovating, remodeling, repairing, furnishing and equipping new and existing school facilities, including (1) upgrading playground equipment, cabinetry/counters and remediating environmental concerns, (2) updating the cafeteria at Henry Elementary, (3) constructing additional classrooms, upgrading restrooms and repairing parking lots, (4) addressing structural concerns, upgrading the gym, renovating the existing band room and contracting additional band room practice areas at Clinton Middle School, (5) acquiring property now leased to the District, (6) resurfacing the track and replacing football field turf and (7) installing secure entry improvements at Clinton High School?
If this question is approved, the District’s debt service property tax is not expected to increase above the current debt service property tax levy of $0.8168 per $100 of assessed valuation of real and personal property.
Question No. 2
Shall the Board of Education of Clinton School District No. 124 of Henry County, Missouri, be authorized to increase the operating property tax levy ceiling to $3.2011 per $100 of assessed valuation according to the 2024 assessment for the purpose of paying general operating expenses of the District, including increasing compensation for employees in order to attract and retain quality faculty and staff?
If this question is approved, the adjusted operating property tax levy of the District is expected to increase by $0.15 from $3.0511 to $3.2011 per $100 dollars of assessed valuation, and the District expects to reduce its debt service property tax levy by an amount that is estimated to result in no net increase in the District’s total property tax levy, which is estimated to remain unchanged at $3.8679 per $100 of assessed valuation.