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SACS eyes $10 million for fixes

The Southwest Allen County Schools board is considering $10 million in short-term, low-interest loans to make improvements throughout the district next summer.

The district plans to divide five projects – some involving more than one building – into separate $2 million general obligation bonds. The board will hear more information next month about how the district can structure the debt and payoff.

SACS is in the middle of construction at various buildings, which was also possible through a general obligation bond. Because of continued revenue losses as a result of state property tax caps, the district cannot afford as many improvements as necessary, said Jim Coplen, business manager for the district.

The district loses more than $1 million a year in capital projects revenue because of tax caps, he said.

During a board meeting Tuesday, Coplen outlined what upgrades would be made with the $10 million. The district would install rubber surfaces on the playgrounds of all six elementary schools; replace roofs or roof sections at Homestead High School and Summit Middle School; improve traffic flow at Summit and in the area of Woodside Middle and Covington Elementary schools; replace carpet at Summit and Deer Ridge Elementary; buy an all-digital hand-held radio system; and upgrade the television and camera security system for the district.

Haverhill Elementary would also receive renovations to its office, and a more secure entrance would be installed at Aboite Elementary. There would also be improvements to some outdoor facilities like the Homestead marching band competition and practice area, the tracks at the high and middle schools, and the entry area to the high school football field.

Coplen provided three options for how the board could structure the debt and payoff, but he said legal and financial advice hasn’t been sought.

The board directed Coplen to look at options that kept the tax rate in the district’s debt service fund level with or lower than the current rate. The administration would need authorization from the board to conduct a public hearing on the bonds, which the board will likely do before the end of next month.

Also Tuesday, Coplen reviewed the proposed debt service fund budget for 2014. The fund will see a slight decrease from last year, because of an error in a previous year that led to a refund in last year’s budget.

The fund will total $10.4 million. About $10.2 million will be raised to pay back debt on building bonds. Coplen said the fund would be altered based on how the board structures the new debt.