The Commercial-News, Danville, IL

December 7, 2012

Board to consider East Park project bids

BY CAROL ROEHM
Commercial-News

DANVILLE — The bid results for work at East Park Elementary School — the third and final school to be improved in District 118’s three-year renovation project — will be considered by the Danville District 118 school board Wednesday night.

The East Park project was put out to bid in four packages — general contractor, electrical, plumbing and mechanical — during the first week of November.

South View Middle School was renovated in 2010-2011, and work at North Ridge Middle School is on schedule with completion expected this month. Those two facilities along with East Park, which formerly was a junior high school until the 1980s, originally were constructed as junior highs in 1961.

“We’re ready for the renovation of the last school, the largest school,” Superintendent Mark Denman said.

“Work may start as early as Christmas break,” he added.

If construction gets under way soon, the renovations could be substantially completed by mid-August 2013.

In October, architects from Schmidt Associates of Indianapolis estimated the cost of the East Park project, without any alternates, to be between $10.75 million and $11.75 million.

By comparison, the renovation work at South View cost $12.3 million, while renovations at North Ridge cost $13.8 million.

The base project includes installing a new roof, replacing the sidewalks around the school, grading the land around the building, replacing drainage pipes and making them larger in the courtyards, replacing the fixtures and repairing the restrooms, creating two new classrooms in a commons area that might be used as a computer lab and paving the school’s parking lot as well as the road around the school that connects to Colfax Street.

The possibility of building a cafetorium like at South View and North Ridge has been ruled out. However, depending on how the bids come in, school board members will consider two options that could be added to the architects’ base bid.

Option 1 would entail constructing an addition to the east side of the gymnasium for a cafeteria with a seating capacity of 448 that would adjoin the existing kitchen. That alternate work is estimated to cost an additional $1.55 million to $1.65 million

Option 2 would entail the construction of a new cafeteria with a seating capacity of 448 and a new kitchen built in the large grassy area to the south of the main entrance of school.

That alternate work is estimated to cost an additional $2.2 million to $2.3 million.

“We’re not going to make a recommendation on the options until we know how much money we’ll receive,” Denman said, referring to Tuesday’s bond sale.

“I think they are good options,” he added. “It just depends how the bids come in.”

Also on Wednesday, school board members will:

Last month, school board members authorized the issuance of general obligation school bonds not to exceed $8.5 million for the project.

Business director Heather McKiernan said the bonds will be sold Tuesday.

“The good news is we’ve been assigned a rating of A-plus from Standard and Poors, despite the state of the state (of Illinois,)” she said.

“We’re hoping for the best,” she said. “We’ll see how much money we receive.”

In April 2011, $21.5 million in bonds were issued to cover the renovations at South View and North Ridge middle schools with the understanding that a smaller bond issuance would be needed for the East Park project.

The renovation projects were budgeted in such a way as to not affect the local school tax rate, but East Park is the last and the largest of the three schools to be improved, and the money that is available will dictate how much will be renovated at East Park.

Since the district’s equalized assessed valuation dropped by 12 percent in the last four years, it has affected how much tax the district can levy to support the bond issuance without raising the tax rate.

This year, the owner of a home valued at $66,500 and who was taxed 58 cents per $100 equalized assessed valuation paid $93.52 toward the bond issuance for the South View and North Ridge middle schools renovations.

Next year, with the district projecting the equalized assessed valuation to decrease by about 6 percent, the same home could possibly decrease in value to $62,510, which made it necessary to slightly increase the tax rate from 58 cents per $100 equalized assessed valuation to 60.5 cents per $100 EAV to support the bond issuance for East Park. Even with raising the tax rate, the district still will collect less revenue for the project, with homeowners paying about $89.70 a year toward the East Park bond.

Denman said the district has set aside $4 million in addition to the bond money to pay for the renovations. Any additional money needed for the project beyond that will come from the district’s operational fund.

Last month, the board voted down 4-3 an initial recommendation to set the tax rate at $5.19 per $100 equalized assessed valuation, which would have amounted to a loss of $325,314 in property tax revenue to the district.

Instead, board members approved in a 4-3 vote a second recommendation to set the 2012 tax rate at $5.07 per $100 equalized assessed valuation, which is payable in 2013 and is a slight increase from the current tax rate of $5.03 per $100 EAV.

With the district’s equalized assessed valuation expected to decrease 5.42 percent for 2012, which is less than originally anticipated, the district still expects a total loss in tax revenue of $712,577 with the $5.07 per $100 EAV tax rate the school board agreed on at its November meeting.

Although the tax rate is virtually the same as last year’s, homeowners could see a decrease in the amount of tax they will pay to the district due to the lower equalized assessed valuation.

With the district’s equalized assessed valuation projected to decrease by 5.42 percent, a $60,000 home could possibly decrease in value to $56,748, so even with a slight increase in the tax rate from $5.03 per $100 EAV to $5.07 per $100 EAV, the homeowner could see a decrease of about $47 on their tax bill next year.

If the area’s EAV decreases more than the projected 5.42 percent, or the state adds a new multiplier on area property values, the district will only collect tax money based on the actual EAV determined in the spring.

Two years ago, the area experienced a 4.14 percent decrease in equalized assessed valuation, which amounted to a loss of $650,759 in property tax revenue collected by the school district in 2011.

Last year, the area’s EAV declined 5.87 percent, which amounted to a loss of $917,678 in property tax revenue collected by the school district this year.

According to McKiernan, the district has lost $2.3 million in potential property tax revenue since 2008 due  to the EAV declining 12 percent over the same time period.

Denman said the U.S. Army develops the curriculum for all four years or LETs (leadership and education training).

“It’s a very heavy curriculum,” he said. “Every year they have mandated activities and elective activities.”

According to a memo from DHS Principal Mark Neil, 115 students have returned signed documents indicating interest and parental consent to enroll in the Junior ROTC program that starts on Jan. 19 for the second semester and will be temporarily housed on the second floor of the high school. Neil said the majority of the interested students — 60 percent — are freshmen but there is representation from the sophomore and junior classes.

The interview process began Wednesday to fill the two Junior ROTC instructor positions. Denman said one non-commissioned officer — either a sergeant or sergeant major — and one commissioned officer, a retired lieutenant colonel, will be hired.

Denman said the district’s food service and custodian contract also has gone to mediation.