School Board Member: Funding Maintenance with Borrowed Money 'Insane'
Apr 15, 2014 01:15PM
● By Steven Jack
The pool at OEHS is in need of more than $200,000 in repairs. Photo courtesy District 308
Oswego District 308 School Board members Monday night continued to debate how to pay for about $3.5 million in maintenance projects planned across the district.
Administrators and Board President Bill Walsh have advocated using $7.2 million saved during the construction of the two high school additions, while board member Greg O’Neil says using borrowed money to pay for facility maintenance is “insane.”
Currently the district is facing $1.3 million in life-safety repairs, including more than a combined $1 million of HVAC work at The Wheatlands and Fox Chase elementary schools and another $250,000 in roof repairs at OHS.
Superintendent Matthew Wendt said Monday night he has agreed to separate out the remaining $2.25 million in repairs as construction projects and non life-safety concerns. Those projects include over $1 million in pavement repairs across the district, pool repairs at OEHS and replacing the track at OHS. That track project also could mean adding an eighth lane so that the school eventually may host regional competitions.
“I don’t want you or the public to be confused between maintenance and construction, and where I come from adding an eighth lane in construction,” Wendt told the board.
O’Neil continued to argue against using left over 20-year bond money borrowed for the high school additions to pay for any of the maintenance projects.
“I do find it hard to believe that a school district borrows money on a routine basis for maintenance issues,” O’Neil said.
He also questioned why the district does not have a fund within its budget for such projects. Walsh said during recent periods of high growth in the district funds for capital projects were available for maintenance. However, that money is now gone.
Going forward, Walsh said, it will be essential for the district to set aside funds annually to plan for routine maintenance.
O’Neil agreed, but turned his attention to another possible form of funding for the current work. He said the district should consider selling the $5 million 121 acres of land purchased five years ago at Route 126 and Grove Road for a potential third high school.
“We are never going to use that land,” O’Neil said. “At least not in my lifetime.”
Board member Brent Lightfoot said that money was purchased with receipts of impact fees from developers and by law could not be used to fund maintenance in the district.
Board members eventually voted 7-0 to move forward with the projects; however, how they will be funded remains to be seen as all projects costing more than $25,000 need to be legally bid and approved by the board.