The Blair Oaks School District in Cole County has two propositions on the April 2 ballot, both meant to help pay for a new high school, after the the school district’s enrollment has nearly doubled since 2003, according to the school officials.
Proposition 3 asks voters if Blair Oaks should issue $14 million dollars of bonds to pay to build part of a $19 million dollar high school and complete repairs on its current building.
Blair Oaks Superintendant James Jones said that the new high school will come in two phases because of limits with the district’s bonding capacity. The passage of Proposition 3 would allow them to build a large portion of the high school, which Jones said will be ready to use by 2021. He said the second phase of the plan will be on the ballot in 2023.
Jones said neither of the bond issues would change the district’s debt service levy if approved.
If both phases of the proposed highschool are completed, it will be able to hold 600 students, with the ability to expand in the future.
The school district was able to purchase 25 acres of land in 2011 to build a new high school.
Blair Oaks voters approved a similar proposition to build what is now the Blair Oaks Middle School.
“This is not about just about a new high school,” Jones said. “This is a comprehensive solution for our district. We went from 500 students to over 1,200 students in the period of time I’ve been here.”
The elementary school would turn into a building for grades K-2, the middle school building will be for grades 3-5 and the current high school will house grades 6-8 if the district gets the funding for the new school.
Jones said the district is using four mobile classroom trailers. The new high school would eliminate the need for them, he said.
The proposed highs chool will include an auditorium for use by the entire school district
Proposition 4 asks voters if the school district should increase its operating property tax levy by 30 cents per $100 of assessed value. The extra money will pay to hire and retain staff, maintain facilities and pay increased educational costs for the new high school, among other uses.
The increase would put the district’s levy at $3.05 per $100 of assessed value and would represent a tax increase of about $85 per year for the owner of a $150,000 home.
Jones said if Proposition 3 passes, Blair Oaks will need to hire at least 13 new employees, which will be the main use of the funds. “Propistion 4 will allow us to have the resources available to employ those folks, and pay for the maintanace and utilities of the new facility,” he said.
There could be possible funding cuts if Proposition 3 passes and Proposition 4 doesn’t, he said.
Jones said if Proposition 4 doesn’t pass on next Tuesday, they will have another proposal on the ballot in 2020 with a 40-cent increase to the operating levy.
“If it didn’t pass in again in 2020, in 2021 we’ll be looking at freezing salary schedules, making major plan design adjustments to our health insurance, maybe an employee contribution.” Jones said. “The key then becomes retainment of quailty employees. Other places may look more attractive than us.”