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Rockwood Places $38.4M Bond Issue on Apr. 2 Ballot

Board of Education makes last-minute additions to accommodate improvements at Stanton and Uthoff Valley elementary schools in Fenton

Rockwood School District's Board of Education directors approved a resolution to place a no-tax increase bond issue on the April 2 ballot at Thursday's board meeting. The St. Louis County Board of Election deadline for all spring ballot issues is 5 p.m. on Jan. 22. If approved by voters, the distict's current 68-cent per $100 assessed valuation bond issue property tax levy would remain unchanged.

Prior to the meeting, the suggested bond issue amount was $36.6 million, consistent with recommendations from the recent "Picture Rockwood" process as well as the amount discussed at last week's board meeting.

Rockwood's bond issue projects can be summarized as:

CATEGORY FUNDING suggested in advance of Jan. 19 meeting
Safety and Health Measures $ 5,020,000 Technology Infrastructure and Classroom Technology $ 9,355.000 Facilities' Maintenance, Repairs and Improvements $19,732,000 Bond Issue Projects Oversight, Architectural and Engineering Services $ 2,500,000 TOTAL: $36,607,000

However, board director Bill Brown initiated a conversation Thursday about the cafeteria and kitchen needs at Uthoff Valley and Stanton elementary schools, both in Fenton, which he said were equal to the needs of Eureka Elementary School, which already were included in the already included in the $36.6 million tally.

Board vice president Matt Doell, who is an engineer, said the electrical system at Eureka Elementary School meets code, but said people can reach up with a rake, shovel or other long apparatus and touch the electrical lines in Eureka Elementary's kitchen/cafeteria area. He asked if the other two schools were in the same condition.

Rockwood's assistant superintendent of administrative services Dennis Griffith said Stanton doesn’t have an electrical equipment issue, but "you can't swing a dead cat in the school's kitchen." He also said Uthoff Valley has its early childhood center in its cafeteria area, forcing it to have multiple lunch shifts. So, the challenge at the other two Stanton and Uthoff Valley is space.

Griffith said seven other cafeteria and kitchen facilities had been listed on the 2011 bond issue, and that these three had been triaged recently as the worst.

Picture Rockwood's Larry Feuerstein said the committee had agreed to use the definition of "essential" as the determining factor for what should be placed on the bond issue-related list, with Eureka's electrical issue deemed as such. However, Brown said the committee didn't get to vote on the list, that it was the Rockwood cabinet members (directors who report to Superintendent Bruce Borchers) who decided to leave off the other two kitchen/cafeteria projects.

When director Sherri Rogers asked why all three kitchen projects were not included, Griffith said the group had been trying to "stay south of $40 million for the bond issue."

"We had a long and passionate discussion two weeks ago about all this. In my opinion, the other two kitchen projects are just as needed," said Brown.

Brown moved to increase the proposed bond amount to $38.4 million to accommodate the other two kitchens as well; the motion passed 4-7, with Doell and director Steve Banton voting no. Doell said he was hesitant to have a public process that resulted in a specific dollar amount, and then not follow it.

Director Steve Smith recommended making the bond amount $39 million because there are no contingencies included as it stands.

"I think we need to be careful, to stay pure to the process, and to stay close to the exact amount," said Board president Janet Strate.

She said the bond consideration stemmed from community feedback resulting from the four-month Picture Rockwood process.

"This is what the community is wanting. It's not a levy; it’s a bond issue, and it works within the 68-cent capacity that we have."

The ballot language will be stated as follows:

Proposition S:

Shall the Rockwood R-6 School District, St. Louis County, Missouri, issue its general obligation bonds in the amount of $36.6 Million Dollars ($36,600,000) for the purpose of acquiring, constructing, renovating, repairing, improving, furnishing and equipping school sites, buildings and related facilities in the District, including but not limited to (1) safety and health measures, (2) technology infrastructure and classroom technology and (3) maintenance of current facilities by continuing to fund major capital repairs and improvements, resulting in no estimated increase in the debt service property tax levy? If this proposition is approved, the adjusted debt service levy of the District is estimated to remain unchanged at sixty-eight cents ($0.68) per one hundred dollars assessed valuation of real and personal property.

Rockwood board directors voted unanimously to place a $38.4 million bond on the April ballot. "I think we should do what we are asked to do (by community patrons)," said Doell.

Not all Rockwood patrons will  be in support of the current proposal. Leaders of a volunteer coalition group, Rockwood Stakesholders for Real Solutions, who state members want transparency within Rockwood, recently communicated in its blog that "district leaders and officials have lost the trust and confidence of the stakeholders, a fact fully substantiated by multiple comments and concerns found in the recent Online Survey Verbatim Responses 1212 taken as part of the Picture Rockwood community engagement process. However, it is still business as usual with board members and district leaders." 

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