The Avilla Board of Education wants to hear the public's ideas on how to finance a planned expansion, including a tornado safe room that will be funded partially with a federal grant.
Outgoing Avilla Superintendent Scott Blake said the board wants the public to know exactly what it plans to do with the safe room and how it plans to finance the project, which will cost an estimated total of $1.2 million.
The district was awarded a $600,000 matching federal grant to build a tornado safe room that would withstand the forces of an EF5 tornado and hold all the students and staff at the school, and some residents of Avilla.
Of that grant, FEMA will provide $450,000 and the district is responsible for $150,000.
That money pays for a bare safe room and Blake, who is leaving to take another superintendent's job in eastern Missouri on July 1, said the district would like to make the room a multipurpose cafeteria and auxiliary gymnasium and free up the existing gym for use in physical education classes full time.
Blake said the estimated cost of the project is now at $1.2 million, with $450,000 coming from the federal grant and the district being responsible for the remaining $750,000.
“During my tenure we have been able to build good balances knowing we would have to do some building improvements like this,” Blake said. “So we were putting the money back for that purpose. The board is looking at using some of the reserve money and the matching grant money and then they are wanting to hold the public hearing thursday night to get the community's input to doing a third-party administrative lease purchase for $250,000 to help fund the project.”
Blake said plans are to build a new kitchen and build hallways to make it easier for students to get from the main school building to the safe room/cafeteria without going through the existing gymnasium.
The board also decided to make the safe room a little bigger than the plans in the federal government's grant, which will add to the district's cost.
Blake said the district is looking at a $250,000 lease purchase to finance part of the cost of the project over 10 years.
“We're hoping to do a 10 year lease and pay that off early,” Blake said. “The district is looking at going into debt and the district has no current debt. The only other debt we've ever had was when we purchased busses, the prior superintendent purchases busses so we were in debt for a smaller amount for a shorter period of time. That's why the board wants the public to know what's happening and get their suggestions.”
Brad Byers, who takes over as superintendent on July 1, said the planned lease purchase would not require any new taxes from residents. He said the money to make the payments will come from existing money and revenue.