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Board adopts school-construction resolutions

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Work could begin before school year ends

By Kevin Koelling, Managing Editor

TELL CITY – Members of the Tell City-Troy Township School Board adopted unanimously three resolutions supporting $2 million in renovation work for Tell City High school at a public hearing Tuesday.

Following a county-council meeting earlier that day, where they’d secured approval to issue $2 million in interest-free qualified zone academy bonds, the board conducted a 1028 hearing, required by law for any construction project costing more than $1 million, according to corporation attorney John Werner. The hearing provided an opportunity for any interested taxpayers to learn about the proposed construction, ask questions and express any concerns they have.

Scott Veazey of the Veazey, Parrott and Shoulders architectural firm, Evansville, distributed plans among board members and the few audience members before describing the work to be accomplished. Colored areas indicated those parts of a larger plan to be covered by the $2 million. The financing of other work, such as classrooms to be constructed along one edge of a courtyard, will be sought through a referendum to be scheduled later.

The conversion of space near the school’s swimming pool into special-education and health-occupation classrooms will require primarily “cosmetic work” to improve ceilings, lighting and technology, Veazey explained. Other work will give wheelchair users access to restrooms and renovate top and middle floors of the original 1928 portion of the building. Sprinkler systems will be installed in each area undergoing work.

“As we touch these buildings in any significant way, we have to bring them up to code,” the architect explained.

Schools Superintendent Ron Etienne said paying back the bond will mean about 4 cents per $100 assessed valuation, but with school-funding changes included in House Enrolled Act 1001, “there would be no tax increase, just a reduction of levy power.”

When Werner announced the time had come for a public-comment portion of the hearing, board member Tom Holm expressed appreciation to County Council President Pete Franzman and Tell City Mayor Barbara Ewing, who “did a lot of work in a short time to make themselves comfortable with this.”

He was referring to uncertainty, described in another story in this edition, about how the bonds would affect the ability of other taxing units to levy taxes.

Resolutions the board approved included one certifying the $2 million QZAB is intended to benefit students of the school corporation. The second reauthorizes a building corporation that will hold a lease on the property until the bonds are repaid, and authorizes it to sell the bonds. The third resolution amends an existing lease to incorporate the amount needed to repay the bonds.

Politics can be beneficial, school-board member Dr. Gene Ress noted after the resolutions were approved, “as long as politicians keep in mind the needs of the people. I was impressed by the comments of people at the county-council meeting.”

Board member Larry Bryant echoed the sentiment and noted that under HEA 1001, taxing units have to work closely with one another because the spending of one will affect the revenues of all others.

Etienne said after the meeting a lease hearing will be conducted in January and a wage-rate hearing will have to be conducted. No remonstrance period is required for projects costing $2 million or less, he said.

He’ll seek bids in the early spring, and work could begin before the school year ends, he said.

In other business, the board approved the employment of Rachel Alvey to replace Michelle Etienne during the second semester. Alvey will split her math-teaching days between freshman students at the high school and seventh-graders at the junior high while Michelle Etienne is on leave.

The board also approved a 403B retirement plan offered through Great American Life Insurance of Cincinnati and payment of $3,800 in Indiana School Board Association dues.

Bryant noted ISBA staffers will get a 4.5-percent pay raise, calling the amount “a little steep for the economic conditions we’re in.”

Etienne reported free-and-reduced lunch rates as of Dec. 18 were 25.5 percent at the high school, 41.8 percent at the junior-high level and 45.2 percent at William Tell Elementary School, for an overall rate of 38.4 percent.