Bastrop Daily Enterprise - Bastrop, LA
  • Bond election is ‘not all or nothing’

  • Voters will decide on a bond issue in Saturday’s election that is tied to a contentious proposal to install artificial turf at Bastrop High School’s football stadium. 

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  •   Voters will decide on a bond issue in next Saturday’s April 21 election that is tied to a contentious proposal to install artificial turf at Bastrop High School’s football stadium. 
      Members of the Morehouse Parish School Board and Registrar of Voters Sandra Thomas say there has been some confusion among voters about the bond proposal and the nature of the election itself. 
      While the first item on the ballot – a proposition to allow the school board to issue General Obligation Bonds in the amount of $5.7 million for capital improvements – has drawn the most attention, its success or failure is not tied to any of the millage tax renewals on the ballot, which go to fund teachers’ salaries and benefits or school maintenance.
      “It’s not all or nothing,” said school board member Mike Stephens, addressing rumors to the contrary.
      If approved by voters, the $5.7 million bond issue would fund a list of capital improvement projects developed by Superintendent Tom Thrower, the Save Our Schools committee and principals throughout the school system. The list includes artificial turf for Ram Stadium.
      “That’s number one on the ballot,” said Stephens. “If you don’t want the turf, you can still vote for the other tax renewals.”
      School board bond counsel Grant Schlueter said the $5.7 million bond issue is not a tax increase for Morehouse citizens. The school board has been levying 10 mills over the years to pay all of its outstanding general obligation bonds. If voters approve the new bond issue Saturday, Schlueter said, “it is projected that there will be no increase in the 10 mills currently being levied to pay general obligation bonds.”
      In a letter to the Enterprise editor, school board president Ron Vollmar addresses rumors that the board came up with the election in order to fund the artificial turf. Instead, he writes, the board is acting within “a window of opportunity to secure 5.7 million dollars for needed capital improvements at NO ADDITIONAL COST TO THE TAXPAYERS. If the present bond election fails, taxes will be lowered, and any other bond proposal would raise taxes.”
      Although the building plan includes the artificial turf, Vollmar notes the bond issue “will give us the needed capital improvements at every school.” Read Vollmar’s full letter on page 4 of today’s Enterprise.
      The first list of school capital improvement needs, submitted by the principals, totaled almost $7 million and had to be scaled back to an estimated $5.7 million in January. The revised list removed 30 projects from the first list – ranging from a multipurpose room for South Side Elementary to six new classrooms at Pine Grove Elementary – and added the artificial turf for an estimated $1.2 million.
      In a memo to board members in January, Thrower writes, “The SOS committee members are proponents of a turf project at Bastrop High School.” When the board discussed postponing the bond issue until the November election, SOS member Henry Cotton argued the turf is needed to make Morehouse Schools more competitive, and said the proposal would have less chance of passing in November.
    Page 2 of 2 -   Stephens disagrees with that position.
      “Bastrop has won championships without an artificial turf,” he said. “If you have a good coach, a team that works hard, good classes and a good school environment – then students are going to stay.
      “I think there are so many more important things we could be doing with that money. If those items [that were deleted from the first capital improvements list] are things we need right now, let’s do them.”
      The capital improvements list to be funded through the $5.7 million bond issue is as follows:
      H.V. Adams Restrooms and water fountains by new classrooms ($65,148) 4 classrooms ($243,408)
      Bastrop High School Remold/update all bathrooms in old part of main building ($30,000) Remodel bathrooms in JROTC/Band area ($75,148) Remodel boys gym restrooms and dressing areas ($10,000) Turf field ($1,200,000)
      Beekman Jr. High 4 classrooms ($243,408) 3 computer labs with furniture and computers ($320,256) Restrooms ($65,148)
      Cherry Ridge Elementary 6 classrooms (one room used as library) ($377,412)
      Delta Jr. High Replace roof shingles ($55,000) New AC/Heat unit ($16,800) Bathrooms on elementary wing ($65,148) Paint entire building outside and inside ($125,000) New pressbox ($15,000) Furniture for computer labs ($15,000)
      Morehouse Jr. High 3 computer labs with furniture ($248,256) Stadium repairs ($130,380)
      Morehouse Magnet  Convert multipurpose room for PE use or add PE room ($336,600) Mobile lab for upstairs ($30,000) Remodel bathroom upstairs ($23,200) Repair ceiling in hall upstairs ($14,300)
      Oak Hill Elementary 4 classrooms ($246,456) 2 computer labs ($170,304)
      Pine Grove Elementary Multipurpose room with parking ($362,560) Parking lot in front ($17,325)
      South Side Elementary 2 computer labs ($170,304) 3 classrooms ($190,602)
      Other costs Costs of issuance ($50,000) Architect fees ($250,000) Contingency ($372,837)
      Transportation Special needs bus ($90,000) Regular bus ($80,000)