By Bill Short
The Millington School Board unanimously approved a Five-Year Plan this week that projects the costs of the municipal school system’s future needs in Capital Improvements.
Board members took the action Monday night during their regular monthly meeting on a motion offered by Vice Chairman Greg Ritter and seconded by C. J. Haley.
Dr. David Roper, superintendent of the school system, said it anticipates receiving approximately $1.5 million annually from the Shelby County Commission during the 2016-2020 fiscal years. He acknowledged that “several factors” enter into that projection. They include the types of capital improvement requests made by Shelby County Schools and the percentage of enrollment in Millington compared to the total enrollment in all six municipal districts.
“By law, we are entitled to certain portions of those funds that are granted on a countywide basis, since we are a school system within the county,” he noted. “So, obviously, that’s going to fluctuate somewhat from year to year.”
Roper said that, in the current fiscal year, architectural fees are projected that either have been or will be incurred before June 30. They include $30,069 for the consultants who conducted a facilities study.
He noted that slightly less than $1.1 million is the expected cost to repair the roof on the Millington Central High School Gymnasium and the Freshmen Academy building.
So, the total Capital Improvement expenditures for the current fiscal year are projected to be $1,187,969.
Roper said the “big thing” next year is the renovation of the Freshmen Academy building, which is estimated to cost $1.3 million. He noted that the project will be advertised for bids, which are expected to be received on July 20.
The school system has also investigated the possibility of LED lighting within that renovation.
Roper said he intends to have the bid specifications written in such a way that the base bid will just be for the estimated $50,000 cost of fluorescent lighting with fewer fixtures in each room. But within those specifications, there will be an alternate bid for going to all LED lighting within the rooms.
So, with some “good bids” on the bid alternate, combined with the $1.5 million that the school system expects to receive from the county, Roper said he hopes to be able to recommend to the board that the renovation include LED lighting.
“It costs more, obviously,” he acknowledged. “But it’s very desirable in the long run if you can have that.”
The superintendent said the plan also includes replacement of the floor in the high school gym and renovation of the school system’s Central Office by adding a restroom and an enclosure for some of its electronic equipment.
He also said that, during the 2017-2020 fiscal years, $500,000 will be set aside for the phased replacement of HVAC units.
“If you don’t plan for those kinds of things,” he noted, “and you just wait until your units fail on you, then you’re in a mess. So, we’re trying to do the smart thing and project out as these units are beginning to be near the end of their useful life.”
In the 2016 fiscal year, Roper said, $80,000 is projected for an architectural study to determine the most effective method of new construction to meet the needs of the high school students.
In the 2017 fiscal year, $10 million is projected for construction of a “new wing” at the high school.
And in the 2020 fiscal year, $15 million is the estimated cost for construction of a new elementary or middle school.
Roper said that will be dependent upon several factors, including what happens during the next two or three years with Lucy Elementary School.
“I wouldn’t dare speak for Shelby County Schools,” he acknowledged. “But we are hopeful that some things might come our way on that, so that we can avoid having to build a brand-new elementary school from scratch.”
Roper said the Five-Year Plan represents the school system’s recognition that these needs exist and will have to be accounted for.
“It does not tie us to doing any of these things in a specific year,” he noted. “But we’ve prioritized this, based on the way we think it needs to be approached at this point.”
During discussion shortly before the vote, board member Cody Childress said most of the expenses that have been or will be incurred are due to a “lack of commitment” from the Shelby County School System. He said it started the repair projects but did not follow through with them before the buildings were turned over to the municipal school system.
“It also stands to reason that our mayor and our city manager could get behind us instead of standing in front of us trying to take what money that we’ve got coming in on the tax revenue,” he added. “They can see that we’re not throwing money in the wind. It takes a lot of money to run this school system.”
Board member Louise Kennon said she thinks only someone who has worked in the school system or has children enrolled in it can understand the “economics” of what it costs.
She believes the board has been “very cautious” with the money that it has spent, and that the city’s residents deserve the best school system it can provide.
“We can live with potholes,” she concluded. “But if our children aren’t taken care of, we’re all going to suffer.”
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