Wheaton R-3 aims for upgrades

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

District to spend more than $750,000 in construction

The Wheaton R-3 School District is gearing up for a number of upgrades to its buildings, work on which will start as early as this week.

Lance Massey, superintendent of Wheaton Schools, said the district plans to spend more than $750,000 on upgrades to roofing, electricity and security.

"We are using district resources and have done a needs assessment that started about a year ago," he said. "In that assessment, we came up with three high-priority needs."

Massey said elementary school roofing is at the top of the list, as the district does not believe the roofing has been repaired since the school was built.

Electrical upgrades are also needed in the elementary school, as it still has the same capacity as when it was built. Upgrades at the high school will also take place, as Massey said the 1-to-1 initiative and other added technologies have created a need for more capacity.

Finally, Massey said security upgrades will also be done throughout the campus. He said each building will have buzzers to allow people inside.

"These are the projects we decided we needed to do, and we don't have enough capital to do them on an individual basis," Massey said. "As we dug deeper, we came to the conclusion that these are high-priority and we needed to do a lease purchase."

Wheaton is working with Control Technology and Solutions Group, of Lenexa, Kan., in completing the projects, and underwriting was handled by L.J. Hart and Company, of St. Louis. Security Bank of Southwest Missouri purchased $127,000 of the $527,000 in certificates. Massey said about $250,000 is being paid out of the district's capital purchases fund.

"It is nice that out marketing procedures facilitated this local involvement while still receiving attractive interest rates," Massey said. "The repairs will be funded by bonds, and those will be paid back through capital improvement money, and not through our debt-service levy."

The bonds are for 15 years, but Massey said he hopes the district will get to pay them off much sooner than that.

"We have a three-year call feature, so we can pay them off or pay down on the principal, which is what the board intends to do, and the interest rate is estimated at 3.75 percent over the life of the bonds," he said. "The neat thing about the three-year call feature is interest is lower during those years, so if we get fully funded with the formula like the legislature says we will, the district expects to pay them off at a lower rate instead of stretching it out over 15 years."

According to Larry Hart, president and CEO of L.J. Hart and Company, the bonds are scheduled to mature on March 1, 2019 through March 1, 2029, with reoffered yields ranging from 2.25 percent to 4.25 percent.

Massey said construction on smaller projects will begin as early as this week, and major repairs will begin in the summer, after school is out. The district is expecting to have all projects completed by Aug. 8, not long before the beginning of the next school year.

Massey said also on the list of items the school hopes to get is a FEMA building, but that project fell low in the priority list right now. However, Massey said the district is still looking at ways to fund a FEMA building in the future.

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