District seeking funds for upgrades

CHARLOTTESVILLE — Eastern Hancock School Corp. is looking to borrow money to foot the bills for roof repairs and window replacements in its buildings.

This week, the school board approved seeking interest rates from banks that will lend it $500,000 for the improvement project.

A recent facilities study identified a variety of improvement projects the school corporation needs to perform to keep the building in tip-top shape, including repairing the aging roof and replacing windows at the high school.

Borrowing the money will allow the school to get started on those projects, which are estimated to cost about $440,000, money school officials say they don’t have readily available.

Jill Muegge, corporation business manager and treasurer, estimated the roof repairs to cost about $325,000 and the windows $115,000. Officials hope to complete the project before the end of 2016.

Taxpayers won’t see an increase in property taxes to pay the principal and interest of the loan, which would be paid off after five years, Muegge said.

The school district has made an effort to keep its debt low, only borrowing as other loans are paid off, she said.

Last year, the corporation paid off a $1 million loan from 2004. Two other debts from 2007 and 2009 are inching closer to being completely paid off, Muegge said.

Financial reports show the corporation has about $10.5 million of debt payments to make before 2022.

Jim Jackson, school board secretary, said it’s important for the school corporation to make the roof and window improvements now before minor issues turn into major problems.

“It’s really all about our facilities,” he said. “Through all of our strategic planning, we’ve made sure that we’re maintaining and making the necessary improvements that we need to provide the best opportunities for our kids.”

By waiting to make improvements, the school corporation risks having bigger issues to deal with in the future, he said.

The facilities study conducted last year looked at every aspect of the building to assess when upgrades and improvements needed to be complete. Now, the school has a long-term plan for completing those projects, which range from HVAC work to upgrading bathrooms.

“We want to make sure we’re proactive and looking at those things that need to be done,” Jackson said.

By keeping the loan at $500,000, the school board will prevent property taxes in the district from rising, officials said.

Repayment of the bond would begin July 15, and the interest rate will not exceed 4 percent, a resolution adopted by the board states. It will be paid off no later than Jan. 15, 2021.

Interim superintendent Steve Welsh said the process to find a bank to borrow from should move pretty quickly. He expects to choose one by the end of the year.

It’s important for the school to make improvements as they’re needed to give students the best environment to learn in, he said. But the corporation doesn’t have the extra funding to pay for such large projects, making borrowing money necessary, he said.

“These improvements are ongoing needs, just like homeowners have with their properties,” he said. “We think this will take care of the need to improve our facilities.”

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Daniel Morgan is a reporter at the Greenfield Daily Reporter. He can be reached at (317) 477-3228 or dmorgan@greenfieldreporter.com.