Facility Update

Happy Thursday everyone!  I’m opting to share another article that will be appearing in the Roadrunner Report sometime in the next week or two.  For the past 18-ish months we have been exploring improving our facilities at I-35 schools, e.g., auditorium, CTE building, and bus garage (work area primarily).  An outgrowth of planning for these three improvements led to actually addressing several other needs within the facility – 1) completely updated and new fine arts area for art and music, 2) enlarged elementary cafeteria (so we can stop starting to serve lunch at 10:35 am), and 3) enlarged high school commons area, including updated entrance to the school.  This article gives a brief history of the project, where we’re at, and shares possibilities for funding these projects.  Perhaps the most salient detail of all this – the plan is to be able to complete these projects without having to raise property taxes for our patrons.  Please let me know if you have any questions, or feel free to contact any of the Steering Committee identified in the article.


From the Desk of I-35 Superintendent Kevin Fiene


Last month I shared information regarding several things, including potential facility projects.  This month please allow me to further update you on potential building projects at Interstate 35 Schools!

Since writing/sharing last month, the Board had a Work Session on October 11; as a reminder, no action can be taken at a Work Session.  The Work Session was organized into three components:

  • Study of legal requirements for any general obligation bond
  • Review and study financial options for building projects
  • Review concept plans from Phase I Site Planning phase

We spent quite a lot of time looking at the first two bullet points, e.g., funding details for any building project.  A district has the following options for funding building projects:

  • General obligation bonds
  • Use of SAVE money (1 cent sales tax – no local property tax money)
  • Use of Physical Plant and Equipment Levy (PPEL) funds (locally controlled, property tax funded)
  • Donation

Obviously another option is any combination of the four funding sources.  Here are a couple of notes to understand about each of these potential funding streams.

  • General obligation bonds require a 60% super majority approval by the patrons of the district
  • Districts can borrow against future earnings of both the SAVE fund and the property tax portion of the PPEL funds
  • Does anyone know of a wealthy benefactor as I would love to meet with him/her? J

Another part of the discussion was how much money could be generated from the various funds.  We enlisted the free services of Piper Jaffray in putting together the following figures.

  • A general obligation bond levy of $2.23 per $1,000 (current rate being paid) of taxable valuation would generate $6.8 million – This is the same levy that has been in place for years to pay for the elementary and middle school additions, and will expire in June 2017.
  • We could borrow against future earnings from SAVE and generate $6.6 million – FYI, we receive approximately $800,000 per year from the state for SAVE, which can only legally be used for building/infrastructure projects, technology, and transportation vehicles (same legal uses as PPEL)
  • The total amount of money that could be generated WITHOUT raising any patron property taxes would be $13.4 million – please keep this figure in mind as you read further

The final part of the discussion dealt with reviewing actual concept plans on the potential building of an auditorium, bus garage, and new stand-alone Career and Technical Education (CTE) building.  The original concept drawings included moving ballfields to school land just north of the current facility, new access roads, parking lots, etc.  The original estimate of costs was $20-$25 million.  The Board asked the architects to revisit the plans and find a way to reduce costs as the figure was not palatable to anyone.  The architects returned with a scaled back concept that removed discretionary things and made the bus garage just large enough to work on and clean the buses, but kept the fidelity of the primary projects, e.g., auditorium and CTE building; the estimated cost to do the entire revised project was given as $12-$15 million.  Please note this is within the range of money we could generate for the district WITH NO TAX INCREASE.

In addition, because of the location of the new facilities (CTE would go north of the school where the old portables are currently setting, auditorium would go where the current music and art rooms are located and be built back to the south, and the bus garage would either be attached to the CTE building or at its current site), there are several other improvements built into the plan:

  • The auditorium would be constructed as a SAFE Room for the entire district to use in the event of a tornado while in session
  • Enlarge the elementary lunchroom by approximately 50% (we currently have to start serving elementary lunch at 10:35 am in order to get everyone fed)
  • Enlarge the high school commons area and re-work the entry to the high school.

It should also be noted that prior to Piper Jaffray doing any calculation on available revenue from the SAVE and PPEL accounts, we restricted $600,000 per year from PPEL and SAVE for maintenance of our current facility, purchase of buses, and continued focus on technology – the three areas allowed by law for use of SAVE and PPEL funds.

At this point, all of this will be presented as one project, with the intent of asking approval of our patrons at a Tuesday, February 7, 2017 special election.  In the interim, the Board has approved a Steering Committee for a newly developed Facilities Committee; Steering Committee members are Cindi Cassady, Tim Palmer, Pat Thornburgh, and Nancy Von Feldt.  Their first task will be to put together the full Facilities Committee – if you are interested in serving, please contact me or any member of the Steering Committee.  Eventually the Facilities Committee will make a recommendation to the Board through a signed petition (number of signatures prescribed by law).  The Board then must take action within 10 days.  At that point, the Facilities Committee will switch gears to sharing information with the patrons regarding the February 7, 2017 vote; architects would also be working with staff and community on specific plans for the initial stages of the project.  The plan would be to construct the CTE building during spring/summer 2017 with the facility being operational for the 2017-2018 school year.  The second part would involve remodeling and expanding the current CTE space to become home for our fine arts programs; this work would be done throughout summer 2017 and into the 2017-2018 school year.  I have no idea when construction of the auditorium would occur as that would be contingent on the other two projects moving forward, e.g., music and art would need to move into their new area prior to construction of the auditorium.  The bus garage could be done at any time if it remains in its current location or in conjunction with the CTE building if it were an attached building.

Finally, the projects being considered were identified by our Building and Grounds Committee over the years and have been on a list of needed improvements for quite some time.  These projects honor and follow the exceptional work of this citizens committee.

All of this can be quite confusing – we will do everything within our power to keep honest, understandable information in front of our constituents – the process has been, is and will continue to be completely transparent.  To me, the exciting part of potentially being able to do these projects is to provide additional, quality opportunities for our students of today, and frankly for the next 50+ years – and be able to do this without increasing the property tax burden of our patrons.  Stay tuned everyone!

Relationship Community/Economic Development

Greetings everyone!  For the past several months, we have been working quietly with Frank and Kim Spillers (Global Horizons, LLC).  In this case, the “we” involves the school in partnership with Interstate Communications.  I’ve written an article for an upcoming Roadrunner Report on what we are attempting to do with this initiative; thought it may be wise to share that article here as well.  This is a rather unique approach to community and economic development – especially with a school taking a leading role – but the concept fits so beautifully for our rural I-35 school district.  Please feel free to shoot me any questions you may have after reading.


From the Desk of I-35 Superintendent Kevin Fiene


We’ve publicized this through our website and Facebook page, as well as discussed at Board meetings several times over the past six months.  A quick history on this initiative may prove useful as a review:

  • Relationship community/economic development focuses on rural areas where there is a strong presence of a local telephone company and plentiful access to high speed internet
  • Processes are used to help communities work together to optimize being “move-in ready and welcoming”
  • Recruitment efforts are focused on people with school-age children that have either the ability or desire to work from home because of access to high speed internet, telephone, etc., e.g., potential to bring jobs with them.

Interstate 35 Community Schools is partnering with Interstate Communications in working with Frank and Kim Spillers from Global Horizons, LLC.  We have met with the City Councils from New Virginia and Truro, and are scheduled to meet with the St. Charles City Council in November.  The next step in this process is to have an open meeting with Frank and Kim Spillers to learn more details about how all of this would work over the next 3-5 years.  This meeting is scheduled as follows:

  • Monday, November 14, 2016
  • 6:30 pm
  • High school library

All City Councils have been invited, as well as representatives from the school and Interstate Communications.  District patrons are both welcome and encouraged to also attend the meeting on November 14.

One may ask why a school is spearheading economic/community development as that is rather unusual.  The bottom line is one driving question:  “What is the one thing that ties together our communities of New Virginia, Truro, and St. Charles?”  The only answer we’ve come up with is the Interstate 35 Schools.  With controlled growth, we are pursuing the proverbial win-win-win situation: 1) the school benefits as school financing is based on student enrollment; 2) Interstate Communications benefits by potentially getting more customers; and 3) the communities benefit through an expanded tax base with a growing population.

If available, please join us to learn more on Monday, November 14 at 6:30 pm!