School board seeks election

By Karl Terry: PNT Managing Editor

The Portales Municipal Schools Board of Education set the wheels in motion to try and build a new elementary school which would replace Lindsey and Steiner elementaries by the fall of 2009.

At Monday’s regular meeting the board voted to pursue a bond election in September and OK’d a $42 million facilities master plan, which includes 13 projects.

After canceling a bond election scheduled for this past February, the board brought its target for the election into clearer focus during Monday’s regular meeting. The way became clearer in late March when the state’s Public School Capital Outlay Committee released an updated ranking of schools in greatest need of replacement or renovation. Lindsey and Steiner schools had both made substantial moves on the list in the last year.

Lindsey had been ranked 69th last year and had moved up to 13th. Steiner, which had been at 98, jumped to fifth. Board officials said they didn’t know what factors led to the huge ranking jumps.

Chris Rasmussen of Greer Stafford Architects relayed that information to the board as he presented a new facility master plan for approval.

“We were shocked,” said Rasmussen. “We’ve been kind of treading water until this was clarified.”

Rasmussen said a ranking below 50 is generally needed before funding from the PSCOC for building replacement or renovation is forthcoming. The new ranking would mean that if a new building is OK’d a substantial portion of the cost could come from the PSCOC.

The proposed replacement school for Lindsey and Steiner would be built on the northwest portion of the Lindsey campus and construction wouldn’t interrupt classes at either school.

“We think it is a good plan — to build a new building rather than remodel two 70-year-old schools,” Portales Schools Superintendent Randy Fowler said.

Fowler explained that with approval of the master plan and the election, the administration would go to the PSCOC with their plan early this summer. At that point the school system would be able to clearly tell the public exactly what the bond election will provide.
The immediate amount available from bonds is $4.2 million, according to the school’s bond consultant Al Clemmons. The total amount over four years as other bonds are retired would be $9.5 million, according to the resolution.

Clemmons also said the bond sales would be structured so that property taxes don’t increase unless the taxable value of property in the district went down.

Fowler told the board that having a bond is a positive thing for the district because it shows local involvement and brings more capital funding to the district from the state. He said to be able to do that while maintaining taxes at the current rate is a good thing for everyone.

In other business the board:
• OK’d the tentative 2007-2008 budget. It is next submitted to the state for recommendations.
• Approved the 2007-2008 salary schedule which will provide the state Legislature’s recommended 5 percent across the board raises.
• Approved a concurrent enrollment agreement with Eastern New Mexico University, allowing high school students to receive dual credits for college-level courses.
• Approved out of state travel for several groups of students.
• Approved a large number of budget adjustments.