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$1.1M athletic facility proposed at high school
Teacher raises, more SROs also mentioned
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Is a $1.1 million multi-sport training complex on its way to Warren County High School?
Such a facility was among nearly $6 million in spending requests outlined Monday by Director of Schools Bobby Cox in a presentation to the county’s Education Committee.
Among other major projects, Cox proposed spending $3 million for updating and expanding Irving College School at its present site, and spending $800,000 for a major upgrade of the Bobby Ray gym.
The spending request also included a 1.5 percent pay raise for teachers and an extra $500 for classified employees. In addition, Cox asked for five more school resource officers, bringing the total to 10, so an SRO could be placed full-time at every school.
He also asked the county to pay for all 10 SROs. The school system currently pays the five SROs from its budget at an annual cost of $218,400.
“I don’t expect to get funding for all these items this year,” said Cox. “But it’s something where we wanted to roll out some requests to let the County Commission know the direction we’d like to be headed and really just to see if there is any interest. Maybe in the next two to three years we can find a way to get funding for these things.”
The multi-purpose athletic fieldhouse would be located on the WCHS campus. Cox said an exact spot for the building has not been determined, but possibilities include near the football practice field or near the soccer field.
It would be roughly a 127,000-square-foot building that would contain a 40-yard practice field, lockers and a weight room.
“It was asked at the meeting if this is part of our mission of educating kids and I think it is,” said Cox. “We have 1,800 kids at the high school and over 400 of them are athletes. A lot of the time athletics is what keeps kids in school. If we want to be serious about improving our athletic program, something like this is needed.”
Cox said community sentiment in the Irving College area is for keeping the school at its current site. Therefore, he is suggesting improvements to the current building.
“We would build a new gym but keep the old gym too, kind of like we did at Dibrell,” said Cox.
As for updating the gym at Bobby Ray, Cox said estimates for a new gym have been in the neighborhood of $2.5 million to tear down the current gym and build a new one. He says that’s why a plan to renovate the current gym for $800,000 is favored.
“It would be a complete overhaul with new bleachers, a new floor, and new wiring,” said Cox.
County Executive John Pelham said he couldn’t anticipate how the Warren County Commission might react to the school system requests, but he did say the county is freeing itself from some significant debt obligations.
“With the administrative building just coming off the books and Centertown School scheduled to come off the books later this year, the thinking might be that since we’re getting some of these things paid for we can start thinking about some new projects,” said Pelham.
According to director of accounts Linda Hillis, Warren County High School and Hickory Creek were paid off June 1, 2012. The administrative building was paid off June 1, 2013. Centertown School will be paid off June 1, 2014.
While those three items have come off the books, or are coming off, the bond issue for Warren County Jail was structured as interest-only playments until the high school and Hickory Creek were paid. The first principal payment on the jail bond was paid June 1, 2013 and will continue until 2022.
The principal on Dibrell Elementary was also structured to become due beginning with this fiscal year with the first principal payment due June 1, 2014 and continuing until 2030.
Hillis notes the money saved by the administrative building and Centertown coming off the books has already been accounted for.
One item that wouldn’t be a capital improvement project was the request to hire five new SROs and then shift the burden of paying for all SROs from the school system to the county. Paying for 10 SROs would result in a recurring obligation of around $436,800 annually based on the current budget for five SROs.
It would require about 7.2 cents of property tax to pay for those 10 positions based on 1 penny of county property taxes generating $60,000.
As for the pay increases for teachers and other school system personnel, Cox said the school system could fund those increases without asking for additional county funding.
“We were hoping to get a 3 percent pay increase for teachers, but when the governor pulled the state’s support for any teacher raises this year that took the wind out of that,” said Cox.