School board to propose $7 million bond issue

(Rendering/courtesy Mustang Public Schools)

 By Traci Chapman

Less than a month after voters rejected a $4.05 million bond issue, Mustang School Board elected to send a $7 million proposal to a Feb. 11 vote.

Mustang School Board President Chad Fulton, left, and Superintendent Sean McDaniel. (Photo/Traci Chapman)

Mustang School Board President Chad Fulton, left, and Superintendent Sean McDaniel. (Photo/Traci Chapman)

Superintendent Sean McDaniel presented the plan to board members during their regular December meeting, held Monday. The board’s vote to send the plan to voters in February was unanimous.

McDaniel said the district could call a new election within 60 days if the proposal was “substantially different.” While the $7 million plan contains elements included in the $4.05 November proposal, there were several changes and additions to the new issue, McDaniel said.

According to the resolution approved by the board, the bond issue would break out as follows:

u$1.6 million for “technology infrastructure, equipment and software for classrooms and schools.” These items include smartboards, 3-D printers, tablets, laptops, iPads and lab equipment for use district-wide in its Science, Technology, Engineering and Math – STEM – program.

$1 million for “constructing, equipping, renovating and furnishing” storm shelters at Mustang Education Center and Mustang High School campus.

u$375,000 for district “arts programs.” This would include instruments, stage lighting, software and band uniforms.

u$300,000 for “constructing, equipping and furnishing a new barn for the agricultural education program.” The district’s barn, utilized by FFA and 4-H students, is located at 7916 South County Line Road.

u$1.225 million for “constructing, equipping and furnishing a softball training facility for use by the MHS softball and baseball teams.”

u$1.4 million for “constructing, equipping and furnishing a new ROTC training and instructional center” at Mustang High School.

u$800,000 for acquisition of “land for the construction of future schools and/or district facilities in the south and central areas of the district.”

u$200,000 for “new playground equipment” at Mustang and Lakehoma elementary schools.

u$100,000 for “upgrading certain interior lighting” at Trails Elementary School and Mustang North Middle School.

While there are similarities to the district’s November bond attempt, there are significant changes. Provisions for storm shelters and interior lighting were not included in the November issue, and dollar amounts for almost all of those individual projects proposed last month have changed. Only the JROTC center, estimated at $1.4 million, remained the same.

McDaniel addressed storm shelter construction in a Tuesday email. The superintendent said while each school has refuge areas, older sites do not have FEMA-certified shelters.

“The two areas that need attention in our district are on the high school campus (we actually do currently have areas of refuge at MHS) and at the MEC (Mustang Education Center),” McDaniel stated in his email.

The district’s new proposal includes a 50 percent increase in the amount allocated for the FFA barn, from $150,000 slated in November to $300,000 in the new plan. McDaniel said the increase was implemented for “additional needs based on recent Oklahoma City code requirements, based on larger spaces for students, and outfitting adequate lab environments,” such as welding.

The original $1.325 million allocated for baseball – with another $100,000 for softball teams was combined to a single lower proposal of $1.225 for both programs. McDaniel said programs could share the new area because their seasons were different, and the district was able to shave $100,000 off the proposal after “asking private donors to contribute for the purchase of specified equipment that would generally appear as a part of the bond under FFE (furnishings, fixtures, and equipment).”

The new $1.4 million JROTC building would include “classroom space, office space, lab space, training/drill space, and locker room space along with restroom facilities,” McDaniel said.

“This facility will be constructed to be a stand-alone facility that will meet the needs of the JROTC program for years to come,” he said.

The district could propose the higher bond amount by changing its term – from four years to five – McDaniel told board members. The tax impact for district residents would remain the same as November’s proposal, he said.

“For someone with a $100,000 home you’re looking at $30 a year or $2.50 a month,” the superintendent said.

McDaniel said issues with the November proposal was low voter turnout. In an election marked by exceptionally low participation, 57.3 percent of voters approved the November bond issue. State law requires 60 percent approval for school bonds. A second issue – $750,000 for purchase of new buses – was OK’d by voters.

McDaniel and his staff were working on plans to better present the issue to voters before the Feb. 11 date. The district did not adequately “get the word out” before the November election, and 95.4 percent of registered voters living in the district did not cast a ballot, he said.

“Historically there’s been a much higher turnout,” he said. “The numbers tell us Mustang supports school bond elections.”