The Beloit Board of Education held a special meeting Tuesday evening to discuss the latest cost figures and building plans associated with the $70 million referendum.
Lisa Voisin, a director with Baird financing, gave a presentation on the district's bond rating. With interest rates at 3.5 percent, and the district having a Moody's bond rating of Aa3, she said the cost to a taxpayer with a $100,000 home may likely drop from an additional $108 annually to $90 if the referendum passes. The debt incurred would be paid off over 20 years.
Superintendent Steve McNeal added the district had been conservative in its original cost estimates, and that an extra $108 annually was the absolute highest it could reach for the owner of a $100,000 home, calculated when considering a potential interest rate of 5.5 percent. But he said the $90 a year was a more likely scenario given the bond rating and historic low interest rates.
However, if the referendum does not pass taxes will drop $64 a year from what they are now for a homeowner with a $100,000 property, because the debt on the high school will be paid off in a year. The added $90 increase to current taxes, plus the $64 in potential savings once the high school debt is paid, would total $154 extra for a taxpayer to pay if the referendum goes through versus if the school district did not run the referendum.
At Tuesday evening's special board meeting, the Board of Education also discussed its maintenance plans for Aldrich and McNeel middle schools and Beloit Memorial High School. Proposed improvements totaling $8,191,000 are suggested for incorporation into the general maintenance fund over the next five years. The proposed improvements are separate from the referendum, as the other facilities already have maintenance needs addressed through the referendum.
After concerns were raised about maintenance needs at Aldrich, McNeel and Beloit Memorial High School, not included in the referendum, a plan was put together to add the needs to the general maintenance budget.
Superintendent Steve McNeal said the $8,191,000 are suggested improvements. Many of them are to bring the schools into accordance with ADA standards.
"Our greatest priority is to make sure that these buildings are part of a plan of improvement as we move to make sure that the others that are addressed in the referendum are being taken care of. In the end, we will be in great shape as a district with all of our facilities," McNeal said in an earlier interview.
Board President Shannon Scharmer asked what the next step will be in the referendum process. McNeal said a citizens' referendum advisory group will introduce themselves at the next board meeting held on Feb. 14. He did not give out the names of the people in the group but said they were community members who said they wanted to be involved in promoting the referendum.
The group will be responsible for disseminating information. The district is planning a frequently asked question section for its Web site and a brochure for dissemination.
Board member Missy Henderson suggested the board turn referendum inquiries over to the committee to maintain a coordinated effort.
"Let them run the show," she said.
Board member Nora Gard suggested putting the proposed upgrades in a display at each school, and adding a unified display at city hall which McNeal agreed was a good idea.
Scharmer said if she were to do the referendum all over again, she may have approached the process a little differently, but said she still wants what's best for Beloit and is supportive of the referendum.
"I'm hoping we can take our energy to make the most of what we've got to make the best school district possible," she said.
McNeal said the district will release details of what's planned at each school involved in the referendum in the coming weeks.