Manila district looks to future construction

Friday, May 25, 2007

Town Crier News Staff

Scott Beardsley, senior vice president of First Security Beardsley Public Finance, met with the Manila School Board members on Thursday discussing several funding options for future construction projects, including a possible millage increase. Beardsley presented an annual financial review from school years 2001-02 through 2007-08.

He said the district's assessed value of taxable property was $36,120,487 in 2006 and the district is looking at an increase this year.

Manila district currently has 31.1 mills of which 6.1 is for debt service and 25 for maintenance and operation.

"The lowest millage in the state is 19 mills with the state average at just over 36 mills," he said. "Local collection of revenue was 95 percent last year. Starting this school year, if the people of the community do not pay taxes and you don't collect at least 98 percent in March of 2008, the state will make up the difference. If you collect more than 98 percent you will pay the state out of the surplus. The good thing about Manila is you have low debt and when you borrow, you borrow for a shorter period of time, which is more efficient because you pay less interest."

He went on to say the long-term and short-term debts show Manila has not borrowed a lot of money.

"I understand the district applied for help with new facilities and has been put on the qualified but not funded list," Beardsley said. "I know Mrs. Castor has written a letter and hopefully the state will put that funding back in place."

Beardsley presented three options.

Option A would request 4.4 new debt mills to extend the existing 6.2 debt mills through 2027. The new total rate would be 35.5 mills.

Option B requested 6.0 new debt mills to extend the existing 6.1 debt mills through 2032. The total rate would be 37.1 mills.

Option C requested 7.0 new debt mills to extend the existing 6.1 debt mills through 2027 bring the total rate to 38.1 mills.

Beardsley went on to say if the district decided not to do a millage increase, a second lien bond issue could net $175,000. A refunding and construction issue in 2008 could net $1,050,000 on a 20 year issue or $1,575,000 on a 30 year issue.

"The deadline for a fall millage election is July 20," Beardsley said. "If you don't want to do it this fall it can be put before the voters in a special election. This is just for your review and consideration."

Beardsley went on to commend the district saying it is a well managed district.

Beardsley told the board to feel free to contact him with any questions.

High school teachers LeeAnn Helms and Jimmie Puckett, both former Manila High School graduates, spoke to the board about a new mentoring program named Operation 2011.

She explained the four year program, involving eight teachers and administrators, three parents, 18 seniors and five juniors, is geared to help improve graduation rates. She explained freshmen will be partnered with seniors with similar interests to help them. The mentors were chosen through a long process, including writing an essay, and have to maintain guidelines to stay in the program. Also, it was decided to include several juniors so they will be familiar with the program for the next year.

"When this senior class started in the ninth grade, they had 83 students," Helms said. "There will be 51 graduating tomorrow night. We want to know where the kids went, why they didn't stay in school and how we can change that. We want to increase our graduation rate. A lot of times students drop out because they don't feel like they belong."

Helms said the free program will strive to get more students involved in community service and school activities.

"We want the students to feel like they have more of a role in the school and will not want to give up on their education," Helms said.

She said the mentors had met with the eighth grade students. Plans are to kick off the 2007-08 year with a back to school bash where freshmen will enjoy a cookout and get to know their teachers and mentors as well as get a quick run through their schedules before the first day of school.

"These kids are excited about this," Puckett said. "Everybody's asking about Operation 2011. I think it is going to change the school for the better."

High School Principal Pam Chipman expressed her enthusiasm for the program.

"I really think it is going to be a success and I really think it is going to make a difference in these students' lives," Chipman said. "We will be monitoring the program over the next four years."

School Board President Tony Crowell expressed the board's appreciation to the teachers and staff.

Chipman informed the board a course called High School 101 for non-credit will be offered next year.

"We will pilot it one year as a non-credit course," Chipman said.

Puckett, science teacher at MHS, spoke to the board on making physical science a mandatory class.

She said she and Mrs. Bunch (chemistry teacher) are seeing lower grades in chemistry and biology for students who did not take physical science.

The board voted unanimously to make physical science a requirement.

Following an executive session, the board voted to accept the resignation of Ty Presson, bus scheduler, and approved the transfer of Emily Despain, from pre-kindergarten to first grade; Wanda Smith from third grade to fifth grade; approved a stipend of $2,500 for the elementary assistant principal; and $1,000 stipend to Toby Doke for softball.

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