What is a capital project? How do they work?
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Why do we need a capital project to improve our facilities?
Just as BKW is dedicated to preparing its students for a successful future, it also invests considerable time and energy into caring for the buildings and classrooms in which they learn.
As times and the needs of students change, so must their learning environment.
A building condition study commissioned by the district and conducted by independent architectural experts found that our buildings and systems are aging, with many of the building systems in the original 70- to 80-year-old portions of the school nearing the end of their useful life. The boilers and steam heating system in the Elementary School were installed 62 years ago. It goes without saying that it’s not the most efficient or reliable way to heat your children’s classrooms. BKW is looking to upgrade the Elementary School’s heating and ventilation system as part of a capital project.
The district can use this opportunity to modernize and upgrade BKW’s learning spaces while addressing these necessary repairs.
What about the financial impact?
The project can be accomplished with minimal financial impact on district residents. Nearly 80 percent of the cost would be covered by state building aid.
Because it is funded largely by state building aid and bonds, a capital project enables a school district to invest in its facilities – to make repairs, renovations and updates necessary to address health, safety, learning and working environment issues – with significantly less financial pressure upon local taxpayers and school budgets. Specifically, without a capital project, BKW would miss the opportunity to have nearly 80 percent of aidable project costs covered by state building aid – a significant amount of money for the district and local taxpayers.
BKW can also alleviate the additional local tax impact of a capital improvement project by taking on new debt – through bond financing – as old debt is retired.
It should also be noted that any building project that the voters approve cannot, by law, go over budget. School districts cannot spend above the bond amount approved by voters during the capital improvement project public referendum. If costs begin to exceed those estimated once work begins, the scope of the project must be reduced accordingly.
BKW is considering two proposals for a November 2 vote:
- $14.8 million in repair and modernization work primarily in the Elementary School.
- Approximately $5 million in improvements to the Secondary School. This proposition would be contingent on the passage of the $14.8 million project.
If both capital project propositions pass on Nov. 2 the average BKW taxpayer would see an increase of only $1 a month for the first 64 months of the loan, according to the district’s fiscal advisors. After the first five years and four months of the loan, school taxes would return to current levels.
Why are changes needed? What areas need attention?
Daily wear and tear and the aging of the school building and its systems have taken their toll beyond what can be remedied through routine maintenance and repair. At the same time, technology and space requirements for today’s learners are vastly different from the past.
Numerous studies have concluded that students in substandard school buildings perform at lower levels than students in newer, functional buildings. Researchers have found that students in deteriorating school buildings score between 5 to 11 percentile points lower on standardized achievement tests than students in modern buildings, after controlling for income level.
Furthermore, research has found that specific building conditions that would be addressed in a BKW capital project –things like poor air quality, excessive or inconsistent temperatures, poor lighting, and high levels of noise – contribute to lower levels of student performance.
We want to make sure that we use this opportunity not just to maintain our buildings, but also to support our vision for BKW’s students.
The district is looking primarily at repairing and upgrading the elementary school, but does have plans for improving the secondary school lobby, parking and drop-off areas, and creating a community plaza.
The proposed work includes, but is not limited to, the following :
- Reconstruct West Wing Lower Level (K-1)
- Reconstruct West Wing Upper Level (2-3)*
- Reconstruct Main Building Basement-
- Reconstruct East Wing First Floor (4th)
- Reconstruct Main Building Second Floor (6th)***
- Reconstruct East Wing Second Floor (5th)
- Cafeteria Upgrades for Multi-Purpose Program
- Agricultural STEM Lab Upgrades
- Upgrades to technology infrastructure and wifi
- Security upgrades
- Improved entryway/lobby
- Asbestos removal
- Modernize instructional space
- Distance Learning Space
- Cafeteria Upgrades
Is the community involved?
Of course it is –and has been for some time. Since January 2016, the district has sought community input. Community members, civic leaders, architectural and construction experts, first-responders, parents and family members have given the board feedback and guidance through various forums, surveys, and meetings.
That may be why nearly 90 percent of respondents to the exit survey given at the May 16 school budget vote agree that some repairs and improvements to our schools are necessary.
Can I take a closer look?
District residents are encouraged to take a closer look at the condition of the facilities we’d like to improve. Residents are encouraged to ask questions and provide comments. Contact the superintendent’s office to arrange a tour.