Verdigris residents have the chance to vote on two proposals, a $20,505,000 series bond and a $600,000 series bond, on Tuesday. The additional funding will pay for the construction of a new multipurpose building, and it will also help with other expenses like textbooks, transportation, technology and paving parking lots.
“This multipurpose building allows so many groups to use our facility,” said Mike Payne, Verdigris Public Schools superintendent “It will have a really nice hospitality/ meeting room on the second level that overlooks the main gym and practice gym. Early feedback has been positive in discussing the multipurpose facility. It is the biggest project we’ve built at one time. In the past we would complete a building then add on to it at a later date. We’re also fixing to complete construction on a four classrooms and science lab addition.”
The multipurpose building will feature up to three basketball courts with the bleachers retracted, a large hospitality/meeting room, seating for approximately 2,000 and a permanent stage.
“I am a former educator, and I got out because the lack of support from the state. I know all bond issues have two sides and everyone sees this one has all sports, but it’s not. The gym has been there since I was in school more than 20 years ago,” said Ashleigh Webb, Verdigris resident. “I was an assistant basketball coach at Verdigris five years ago and the gym was almost max capacity then. I haven’t been to games since stepping away, but I can only imagine where they’re at now.”
Other community members are voicing concern about whether or not the new building will affect the tight school budget by adding additional expenses such as electricity and maintenance.
“I am not against new facilities or improving schools. I am against wasteful spending in our district,” said Jonathan Roak, Verdigris resident. “I do worry about the district moving to a four-day school week as Catoosa has or even worse, applying to become a Charter Conversion school.”
Payne said the stage and space will allow them to have graduation on campus, which will save the school $4,000 to $5,000 annually.
Series bond helps the school complete a large project without risking the failure of future bond issues. The bond issues Verdigris residents are voting on include five series, or payments, over the course of ten years. Payments occur every two years.
“Verdigris tax payers typically pay about 17 mills to the sinking fund, which is the current debt. It equals approximately $280 on a property valued at $150,000,” said Jason Carini, Rogers County treasurer.
The new bond would be replacing expiring series bonds. Rather than a reduction in property taxes, the current mill rate would continue, so property owners wouldn’t see a change in their tax liability each year.
In addition to the multipurpose building, the bond issue will help the school district tackle other projects including artificial turf on all elementary playgrounds, installing a new HVAC system, increasing campus security, updating the lower elementary gym, paving all unpaved parking areas and concreting sidewalks and walkways.
“The work will make the campus functional, safer and more professional. We are compliant with the ADA on sidewalks, but we’ll be able to make it better,” said Payne.
For educational activities, the bond will help purchase new textbooks every two years; it will help the school invest in STEM education and update technology. It will also help the school purchase new music equipment, update lockers and weight rooms and put turf of the softball infield and re-turf the baseball and football fields.
“The state doesn’t provide textbook money anymore, but the bond allows us to buy those and keep ourselves up with technology,” said Payne.
Textbook, technology and security are some of the items included in every series of the bond. So, every two years the school can update those areas.
Most of the projects should begin in the summer and reach completion by the 2018-2019 school year. However, the activity center and the additional paved parking lots are expected to be open in the fall of 2019.
Turf replacement on the football and baseball infield isn’t expected to occur until 2024.
The ballot will include another proposal, which is a $600,000 transportation bond issued in two series.
Residents can vote Tuesday at one of three polling locations, which are located at Verdigris First Baptist Church, Verdigris United Methodist Church and Verdigris Fire Station.