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County council sends spending issue to special meeting

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School construction will also be discussed at Dec. 23 hearing

By Kevin Koelling, Managing Editor

TELL CITY – County-council members opted Thursday to schedule a special meeting after Ron Etienne asked their approval to pursue bond funding of construction work at Tell City High School.

That meeting will begin at 4:30 p.m. Wednesday in the commissioners room at the county courthouse.

Legislation that went into effect this year requires the council to approve the Tell City-Troy Township school superintendent's request, Etienne told the council, because that school board is still an appointed body. Voters opted a year ago to convert it to an elected board, but its appointed members are serving out their terms before that occurs. The legislation, House Enrolled Act 1001, gave county councils responsibility for, among other things, approving debt issuances of nonelected boards.

"We have another $2 million qualified zone academy bond and want to do another $2 million worth of work," Etienne told the council, echoing discussion at a school-board meeting Tuesday. He'd explained there the school board will continue to be considered an appointed governing body until three of its five members are elected, which will occur in November 2010.

The work Etienne hopes to have accomplished will "get the special-ed kids out of the basement," add some wheelchair-accessible restrooms and begin renovations in the original part of the high school, he told the council.

HEA 1001 established property-tax limits, called circuit breakers, which county taxing units collectively cannot exceed. Etienne noted the QZAB repayments will affect the abilities of other entities, such as the city and county councils and the library board, to levy taxes.  

The cost of further work in the school system will undergo a referendum, and if approved, won't be subject to the circuit breakers, Etienne explained.

"I assume the interest saved will be substantial," Council President Pete Franzman said of QZAB funding compared to other bonds.

Another legislative change occurred, Etienne replied, that allows banks to charge a fee for QZABs, but not interest. He said the repayment amount will be approximately $120,000 per year.

"I don't know how it will affect the county budget," the superintendent said, "but it should be minimal."

Franzman suggested the issue go to a special meeting "since this is new and the public doesn't know about it."

Councilmen Steve Goodson and Chet Mathena agreed.

"I think the public has a right to come in and express their feelings," Goodson said.

Etienne noted a 1028 hearing scheduled for Dec. 23 will be another opportunity for people to address the issue. Such a meeting, intended to present information about construction plans, must be conducted before state approval will be granted.

That meeting will begin at 6 p.m. in the TCHS auditorium.