By Sue Moore
Sustainability has become the watchword for Vicksburg Community Schools as the district asks taxpayers for a $41.75 million bond issue in May. This follows one that was passed in 2014 and is expiring, according to Superintendent Keevin O’Neill.
“Our team of experts say it is more cost-effective to maintain our current buildings than to tear down and build new,” said Steve Goss, the district’s assistant superintendent. “Our continued maintenance program for all the buildings makes a big difference in ensuring that they function properly. When schools took a financial hit during the recession in 2008-09, we had to delay important maintenance items.
“We were grateful to have the countywide enhancement millage monies in the early 2000s that we used for capital expenditures. But that money has had to be utilized in our operating budget over the last seven years so in 2013-14 we needed to ask the voters for a bond to upgrade our facilities. Now, six years later, we can slightly reduce this millage with a new bond request and continue to make the many maintenance upgrades [that these older building require].”
The list of improvements is long and would be accomplished over the next six years with bonds being issued in 2022, 2024, 2026, but packaged as one request on the May 5, 2020 ballot. It would include work at all the schools, including new classroom furniture, electrical upgrades including energy-efficient LED lighting, flooring replacement, bathroom renovations, roof replacements, new air conditioning/heating, exterior and interior renovations, technology upgrades and security enhancements.
“Look at the work we have done over the last 10 years,” said O’Neill. “Every building got touched in a great way. Our updates [were targeted] to bring the buildings closer to new. The sidewalks and parking lots have been improved. We have great things going on as we work hard to attract and retain the very best [teachers and staff] at every level. We hired 16 new teachers this year and all of them had great experience. We train and support them in order to retain and attract the best. Our success is based upon our reputation and the support we give our teachers.”
If approved by voters, the bonding proposal will result in an estimated 3.3-mill tax rate, $3.30 per $1,000 of taxable value on property. A 1993 bond expired at the end of 2019, dropping the millage rate from 6.85 mills to 3.3 mills. If approved, the total millage rate would be 6.6 mills, 0.25 less than the rate levied in 2019.