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Broken AC Unit at TJ prompts budget changes

Board to discuss district's 10 year facility plan

Published: Friday, Nov. 10, 2017 10:04 a.m. CST • Updated: Friday, Nov. 10, 2017 10:48 a.m. CST
Caption
(David Dolmage/Daily News)
Ann Leonard, vice president of the Newton Community School District Board, listens during discussion at a board meeting. Board members will look at making changes to the district’s 10 year facilities plan in order to replace a failing air conditioning unit at Thomas Jefferson Elementary during its regular meeting on Monday.

A failing air conditioning unit at Thomas Jefferson Elementary will require the Newton Community School District to look at changing some priorities to their facilities budget, Superintendent Bob Callaghan said this week. When the NCSD board meets during its regular board meeting on Monday night it will examine how to cover the costs of replacing the unit, which are anticipated to be anywhere from $60,000 up to $100,000 in preliminary estimates.

Callaghan said the district’s maintenance staff has inspected the unit and determined it’s not possible to repair. The district had planned to replace the unit during the 2019-2020 school year, but will be required to speed up the timeline to ensure the unit is functioning when warmer weather returns next year.

“We have time to change the plan and manipulate our funding streams to best utilize the sales tax,” Callaghan said.

While the expense is unexpected, Callaghan said the district purposefully builds some flexibility into the budget in order to handle unplanned expenses. Replacing the unit two years early means the district will have to shuffle some other expenses in the budget, although Callaghan said it’s too early to say exactly what will have to be pushed back. Any expense over $25,000 requires board approval before proceeding.

“It’s going to be a high dollar fix, this isn’t a $10,000 repair,” Callaghan said.

While district employees typically service all of the HVAC equipment, Callaghan said the district will enter into a bid process to have a company replace the air conditioning unit. The replacement process will require a crane, and will have to be done by the company that supplies the unit in order to qualify for the warranty process.

“It won’t be a traumatic impact, we have enough cushion in there, we budget pretty carefully, just like we do everything else,” Callaghan said.

The district’s infrastructure needs are covered in part by a penny sales tax, a state proposal that is scheduled to end in 2029. Callaghan said it’s a “high priority” to extend the penny sales tax in order to help school districts continue to meet their facilities needs. Currently, the penny sales tax provides the district with $2.5 million dollars per year to cover infrastructure needs. The money has been used to repave the parking lots at NHS, cover expenses related to the new softball field and refurbish the administration building. Districts are limited to only being able to use the money for infrastructure needs, but Callaghan said without this funding source it would be difficult to get these projects completed without raising the property tax levy.

“We could levy another 33 cents in tax, but we choose not to do that,” Callaghan said.

On Monday the board will also look at approving a student internship for the athletics office. Athletics Director Scott Garvis said if approved, this will be the second time the district has had an intern from the University of Cincinnati join the program, a relationship that began when Garvis met Dr. David Kelly, a professor at the university.

The program began last fall when the first intern joined the staff at the high school, and Garvis said he saw tremendous benefits and hopes the program will be continued this year. During a semester the student will be required to work 400 hours and will receive a stipend that is provided by the booster club.

“I want to give them a taste of what it’s like to be a high school athletic director,” Garvis said.

“The one thing I tell them I want this to be a relevant experience for them, so we sit down and come up with a plan, I really try to mold the internship to what they’re looking to get out of it,” Garvis said. “I really want them to learn what this position is about.”

If approved by the board, Garvis said he’ll be in contact with the university and start interviewing candidates toward the end of the year in order to have intern ready to start sometime in January. The experience is a learning opportunity for the student, but Garvis said he’s learned from working with the intern as well.

“I like the fact that I can always learn some things from kids who are just coming out of college,” Garvis said.

Contact David Dolmage at 641-792-3121 ext. 6532 or ddolmage@newtondailynews.com

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