Second Time Around, BPS Officials Face Same Questions on Bond Issue

Second Time Around, BPS Officials Face Same Questions on Bond Issue
Cedar Elementary, One of Four Elementary Schools in Beatrice

BEATRICE – Months after the defeat of an elementary school bond issue, Beatrice School Board members say the district’s acquisition of land for a new elementary facility continues to draw questions.

Voters will consider a $34.8 million bond issue next month, for a pre-K through 5th Grade building on the 93 acres the district purchased, north of Beatrice High School in 2014.  School Board member Janet Byars says school districts are allowed by state law to purchase property through the use of building funds, not by a public vote.  She told Beatrice City officials Monday night that the site was the best among about a half-dozen studied over several months.

:36                  “ready to build”

Byars and District 15 Board Chairperson Lisa Pieper spoke about the upcoming bond issue before the mayor and city council.  Byars said the property purchase, at a per-acre cost of $19,400 in 2014, was comparable to the $17,376 per acre cost Beatrice Community Hospital paid for its new site, six years earlier.

Byars says lots now selling in the area of the school site have been priced higher.

:28                  “30-thousand an acre”

The larger area of property was purchased by the district for possible future facility use, beyond what’s being considered in this coming bond issue.

This December, the bond issue that built Beatrice High School will be paid off, knocking about six-cents of tax levy off the rolls.  The new bond issue, for 30 years, would add 16.26 cents per hundred dollars valuation….or a net of just over 10-cents for the new facility.

School Board Chairperson Lisa Pieper says the board chose to place a new facility before voters again, because of the ongoing cost of maintaining four elementary facilities that no longer serve today’s educational needs.

:22                  “day and age”

Byars says the district expects it would have to spend about $8.6 million in the next ten years just to maintain the old buildings, with no education program upgrades.  There’s also issues with staffing between buildings.

The two board members say a single site will also allow consolidation of meal operations.  Currently, food is prepared at the high school and transported to the various buildings.  School officials also say an expanding pre-school program would be located at one site.  Pre-school is considered to be a competition issue with other school districts, and factors into the amount of state aid a district receives.

There is currently a short waiting list for preschool services, in Beatrice, for three and four-year-old children.

The school district is holding another public information session on the bond issue Wednesday, at 7 p.m., at the BHS Commons area.