Leader Blues

Saturday, January 12, 2008

TOP STORY >> Cabot seeks $2.5M more from state

Leader staff writer

The Cabot School District has asked the state for half of the $5 million budget gap needed to rebuild Cabot Junior High North.
The district appealed to the Department of Education and asked it to reconsider assisting with funds to rebuild the junior high after it was destroyed in a fire in 2006. The total cost of the new building will be $12.5 million, of which insurance has reimbursed $10 million.

The $5 million budget gap is a combined $2.5 million shortfall in construction cost and a $2.5 million gap in the district’s operating fund. The cost of operating temporary facilities for JHN put a significant dent in the district’s budget.

“The temporary facilities for JH North will have cost the district $2.5 million once the school is rebuilt,” Superintendent Tony Thurman said.

“We are requesting that the state consider assisting with the $2.5 million that has been taken from the operating fund for the operation of the temporary facilities,” Thurman said.  

He expects the district’s attempt to be difficult but maintains it should receive insurance funds allowed at the time the school was destroyed in 2006. Thurman believes a millage increase is necessary for the district to afford construction of Cabot JHN, along with other facility needs in the district.

The school board is expected to approve 10-year facility plan Tuesday. It will then go to the state for approval.

Thurman and Assistant Superintendent Jim Dalton presented the 10-year facility plan Friday at a public meeting. The plan must be presented to the public before the board approves it.

Projects that have received state approval include construction of a new health, physical education and recreation center and cafeteria at the high school; a new elementary school; four classrooms and a new parking lot at Westside Elementary; HVAC units in PE facilities on eight campuses and remodeling of the cafeteria and amphitheater at the high school.

The Cabot School District’s 10-year facility plan consists of $50.5 million in projects. Of that total, $27.7 million is expected from the state and Cabot would have to pay $22.8 million.

Cabot will vote March 11 on whether to approve a 3.9 millage increase, which Thurman says is needed to finance planned capital projects. Under the proposed millage increase, a homeowner would pay $78 a year on a home valued at $100,000 and $156 a year on a home valued at $200,000.

Thurman will visit civic groups in the coming weeks to discuss the millage increase.

The state currently finances district projects based on how much wealth is generated in a district.

“Some districts have more local wealth and don’t get as much money from the state,” Dalton said, adding that Cabot can be considered among the poorest in the state considering how little revenue is generated locally.

Other proposed capital projects on the 10-year facilities plan that have not yet been submitted for state approval include new restrooms, a concession stand and bleachers at the stadium to make them ADA compliant; HVAC units for 10 kitchens, none of which now have air-conditioning; auditorium renovation at the high school; new science labs at Junior High South; renovation of the science building at the high school, a 15-year-old building and construction of a charter school facility.
Forty classrooms would be added to the high school pending board and state approval. Dalton said if ninth graders are added to the school, then space will be needed to accommodate them.

“We want to make sure we put ninth graders where we can best serve them,” he said.

The district has also proposed construction of a pre-kindergarten building. The state does not currently help finance any pre-K education buildings.

The state will not offer financing for the purchase of land for a new elementary school, a new Eastside Elementary roof or paving Stagecoach Road, school district officials said.