Brownsboro elementary changed to top district priority

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Nearly $2 million available in state funds due to change

By Tracy Harris

Plans to build a Brownsboro elementary inched forward Nov. 9 when the district’s local planning committee voted to make the project a top priority in the district facility plan.

Committee members voted 18-2 to raise the Brownsboro school priority from 2a to 1b, a change school officials say will make about $1.9 million available in state funding previously restricted because of the prioritization.

This was the committee’s second discussion about the issue after tabling it during an Oct. 13 meeting. 

Committee member and Planning and Development Director Jim Urban told the committee state law requires a review the current district facilities plan and the district’s financial, demographic and physical condition when considering an adjustment.

Urban said that information wasn’t included in the packet sent to committee members.

After a heated debate that ended with Urban leaving the Oct. 13 meeting, members tabled the vote awaiting additional information.

Committee members received that information via email Oct. 31.

At Wednesday’s meeting, Michael Williams, director of pupil personnel, told committee members school enrollment is still increasing.

“It’s smaller growth, but consistent growth,” he said. 

School district CFO Chuck Littrell said the building fund could support financing the Brownsboro school. The budget includes about $2.8 million for renovations and other projects, he said, with about $1 million being spent on renovations each summer.

Bonding for the elementary school is estimated at $20 million, he said, and the district’s current bonding potential is nearly $55 million.

“Any new bond is obviously quite doable,” he said.

Littrell also fielded questions about decreasing tax revenue. He said assessments had been steady for the past three years, but revenue decreased by 1 percent this fiscal year. 

Financial information given to the committee included that decrease, he said.

“I don’t see overall tax assessments dropping by more than 1 or 2 percent per year,” Littrell said.

In addition, the school could also draw from its capital outlay and general funds if necessary. Unlike most districts, all Oldham bonds are paid for through the building fund — most schools use their capital outlay fund for that, Littrell said.

Littrell and Upchurch were also quick to assure committee members a tax hike is not part of the plan.

Upchurch said school board members have not discussed raising taxes to fund the Brownsboro school. 

Leigh Nida, a Liberty Elementary parent and new committee member, voiced concerns about the project. 

Upchurch announced last year that Liberty will close at the end of the 2013-14 school year.

Wilson asked why building new elementary and middle schools at the existing Liberty Elementary site is no longer feasible.

Upchurch said projections show the Liberty location to be more expensive than Brownsboro and would create more transportation concerns. Students living in Prospect developments, including Glen Oaks and Moser Farms, would have been bused to the Liberty campus, he said.

“Our board has spent a lot of time looking at what’s best,” he said. 

No other committee members asked questions during the meeting. 

Urban said he has a “fundamental problem with the motion” to approve the finding. 

The motion was made to approve the finding so the district could save an estimated $2.7 million, which includes taxes paid by the state.

The motion should include more about the reason for building the school, including the demographic and financial information, he said. 

Urban and Wilson voted against approving the finding. 

The school district is now waiting for a decision on sewer systems for the Brownsboro campus. 

The county’s Utilities and Environmental Committee recently decided to recommend the county extend the local service agreement to the campus. 

If fiscal court votes against extending sewer systems to the Brownsboro school, Crestwood mayor Dennis Deibel has said Crestwood will move to annex the school property and several other adjacent parcels.

Members of Oldham County Fiscal Court heard a first reading on the issue Tuesday.

A public hearing is scheduled at  5 p.m. Dec. 6.