Ever since Oxford school district voters approved a $28.28 million bond proposal and a five-year, 0.75-mill sinking fund in November, Superintendent Tim Throne said many members of the community have been eagerly awaiting the start of improvement projects.
Throne gave a Dec. 19 presentation to the board of education, which provided an overview on the anticipated schedule of capital improvement projects that will be completed using bond and sinking fund proceeds.
With the bulk of these projects being scheduled to take place between 2019 and 2024, the overall message seemed to be one thing – “Good things come to those who wait.”
According to Throne, the district’s bonds will be sold in three installments (or series) to reduce the total amount of interest.
Each installment is expected to net around $9 million in proceeds.
“Historically, Oxford has always sold bond(s) in one lump sum,” said Throne at the meeting. “Going all the way back to the 1980s, we’ve traditionally sold (bonds) up front, all at one time, so that money is sitting there and… as you’re getting ready to do the next project, that money is ready. We’re not doing that this time, so we can’t buy everything all at once. We’re not doing it that way for two reasons . . The biggest reason is that . . . we wanted to space that out, so we’re not paying interest all at once. Some of this money, we won’t even start paying interest on it until six years from now, which (saves the district) big dollars.
“The second point is we wanted to hold our tax levy of 7.9 mills the same . . . In order to maximize (the amount of) money (that) we could borrow while keeping the debt payment the same, we needed to do it this way. That means whenever we need to move (one project) up, we have to move something else back because we’re not getting the full $30 million at one time. We’re getting it in chunks,” Throne explained.
With each series of bonds sold, officials will lump similar projects together which will then be bid out in “packages,” according to Throne, starting with the district’s most severe needs.
The district will sell its first set of bonds in the late spring/early summer of 2018, according to Throne, with the actual construction of these projects beginning shortly after the district receives the first proceeds – likely in June 2018.
In Series One, scheduled to be completed between 2018 to 2020, district officials are planning to add building-wide air conditioning to each of the elementary schools. Worn carpeting, located within Daniel Axford Elementary’s first and second-floor hallways, is scheduled to be replaced along with the school’s aging boiler. At Oxford High School, damaged roofing sections found over the 300, 400 and 500 classrooms will be replaced, along with an air-handling unit located within the same wing.
Officials are also planning to purchase a minimum of 10 new buses in the first series.
At least $1.5 million in total will be put into the purchase of new buses, according to Throne, throughout the first and second series of bonds to bring the district’s aging fleet up-to-date.
Throughout Series Two, which is scheduled to be completed between 2020 and 2022, officials plan to make improvements to each of the elementary school playgrounds. Paving, sidewalk and parking lot lighting are also scheduled to be replaced at all elementary schools and at Oxford Middle School. Other projects scheduled to be completed at OMS at this time include the replacement of a water boiler, heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC) controls, and sanitary/heating piping. Fire alarms are also scheduled to be replaced at Oxford Elementary and at OMS, along with vinyl flooring located in the OHS cafeteria and the corridors surrounding it. Remaining buses would also be purchased.
The district will go out for the second series of project bids beginning in November of 2020 with actual construction beginning in the summer of 2021.
The remaining projects are currently scheduled to be completed following the sale of the third series of bonds between the years 2023 and 2024.
Projects scheduled to be completed in Series Three include the replacement of doors, along with exterior lighting, at all elementary schools. Outside lights will be replaced at OHS. They will also include the refinishing of the OHS pool and the replacement of the pool’s HVAC unit. Paving and sidewalks are scheduled to be replaced at OHS and at the district’s bus garage.
Construction for the final group of projects will be completed in the summer of 2024.
Although district officials have created a schedule, those anticipated project dates could change as time goes on, said Assistant Superintendent of Business and Operations Sam Barna.
“You never know when something could completely shut down and you could have to put the dollars there (sooner than anticipated),” Barna said. “This could change depending on what goes on with the operations of these mechanical units, as an example. But, for right now, we’re really packaging these due to the cash flow and what we (fore)see happening.”
Throne and many board members said it will be important to give regular reports and updates to keep the community informed.
“We need to be as transparent as transparent can be,” said President Dan D’Alessandro. “We do not take for granted the gift that we were given by the community. We need to be sure that we honor their gift and do it the right way . . . with integrity, honesty and transparency.”
When it comes to spending the district’s sinking fund proceeds, Throne said those will eventually be put in two main categories – site improvements that could not be afforded by the bond alone and instructional technology devices for students.
“Legally, you cannot spend anything in regards to your sinking fund until after you’ve collected it,” he said. “We will not be taking receipt of any funds until October or November of 2018. That will be the first time (the district) will be receiving any sinking fund (proceeds). We will not be spending anything prior to that point.”