Targeting improved student safety by bringing more of the district’s program’s under one roof,  the Scotland County R-I Board of Education unanimously approved a $1.6 million bond issue to be placed on the April 4th ballot for local voters.

The board voted 6-0, during a special January 17th board meeting, to place Proposition 2 on the ballot seeking funding for an expansion to house a new band room, additional classrooms and an early childhood development center.

Voters will be asked to allow the Scotland County R-I School District to borrow money in the amount of $1,600,000 for the purpose of providing funds for the site development, construction, equipping and furnishing a building addition to create space for existing educational programs.

The proposed expansion would consist of nearly 8,500 square feet and would provide safety enhancements and renovations of the existing facility as well as four early childhood classrooms, a therapy and nursing room, a new band room for the high school, in addition to three more classrooms and additional storage.

Plans call for the construction of a roughly 150-foot long addition to connect the high school and elementary school.

The bond money would also be used to fund safety and security enhancements to all district facilities. and to the extent funds are available, complete other remodeling and repair improvements to existing facilities.

The issuance of bonds for the payment of the capital improvements costs would result in an estimated increase to the debt service property tax levy of $0.16 per one hundred dollars of assessed valuation.

The debt service levy has been at $0.00 since 1994, when the district retired a 20-year bond approved by voters in 1974 for the construction of the high school.

The ballot issue marks the fourth time the school district has asked the public to increase tax revenues to help fund local education.

In November 2015, voters shot down a $5 million bond issue, before voting no in April 2016 on a pared down $4 million proposal. The district went back to voters in August of 2016 seeking $3.3 million, again being rejected.

Superintendent Ryan Bergeson indicated the board has continued to work to pare down the costs of the proposals while working to find alternative funding sources.

Earlier this year, the district implemented plans to repair the softball and baseball fields lighting while moving to replace the football field lighting with used lights instead of new.

The district also scrapped plans from the initial bond issues to install an all-weather track, a new football concession stand, build a new weight room and add on to the library.

Bergeson said the new plan will utilize more of the current facilities, renovating areas such as the Ag building, that in addition to the expansion project, is intended to bring the Life Skills and the elementary school library back under one roof, along with the preschool program. He added the design and architecture were also scaled back to lower the project cost as much as possible.

“The proposed design is smaller, and it is a simple, straight design, both of which helped reduce the cost projections,” said Bergeson.

With its levy at $3.50 this year, the Scotland County R-I district has the lowest levy rate in the Lewis & Clark Conference.

Westran comes in second lowest at $3.75 but also has an assessed property valuation of nearly three times as much as the SCR-I district.

The rest of the conference school’s rate are as follows: Harrisburg –  $5.25, Marceline – $4.67, Salisbury – $4.47, Fayette – $4.25, Schuyler County – $4.20, Knox County – $3.83, and Paris – $3.78.

If approved the bond issue would raise the SCR-I tax levy to $3.66, still  lowest in the conference, and still below other area schools such as Canton ($3.72), Putnam County ($3.73), Kirksville ($4.20), Brashear ($4.22), Monroe City ($4.24) and Novinger ($4.26).

Clark County, which maintains a $3.50 levy rate thanks to a $92 million county assessment level, will be seeking to extend its debt service levy in April. The district is considering an $8 million bond issue to build an early childhood center and install an all-weather sports complex for football, track and band amongst other improvements.