USD 259 BOE Discusses Costs To Open Five New Schools

By: Alicia Myers Email
By: Alicia Myers Email

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Monday, September 12, 2011

Five new schools are scheduled to open in the USD 259 district next fall. The board of education is looking at how the cash-strapped district is going to pay to open and maintain the schools.

For USD 259, that means new boundaries and millions of dollars.

"There are some very important decisions we have to make, and since money is a factor, we have to be very cautious and make sure those decisions are financially sound," said Betty Arnold, USD 259 BOE President.

The district now has to decide whether or not it should open the five new schools, or open them on a much smaller scale than originally planned when the 2008 $370 million bond issue was passed.

"Our solutions are not going to make everybody happy, but I think the economics of the current times. Every body's well aware of how that's impacting us, and taking us back to 1999 funding levels, and that this isn't a surprise, unfortunately," said John Allison, USD 259 Superintendent.

The district is just coming off a decision to cut about $30 million from next year's budget.

Now, the board is looking at spending about that same amount to open and maintain the five new schools for just one year.

The start-up costs, like buying desks, chairs, white boards, science equipment and more, will cost the district nearly $12 million. $4 million of that was figured into the bond issue.

Annual operating costs to pay teachers and utilities, and to buy necessary items like supplies, will cost an estimated $24 million every year.

Before changes can be made on new boundaries, financial decisions have to be made on the new five schools.

"We're going to make it work. It's just what it's going to look like. It will probably look a bit different than the original plan in 2008," said Allison.

Out of the $370 million bond issue, $320 million has been issued for projects. That leaves about $111 million unspent. That amount must be used within the next two years.

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