HOWARD — The East Knox Local Schools Board of Education approved a consultant agreement with Dublin-based architectural firm Fanning Howey Associates during its September board meeting Thursday afternoon. The agreement begins a partnership between the district and the firm for planning and community engagement services in anticipation of a potential bond issue for construction of a new junior and senior high school.
The total amount of the agreement will be $21,000 for the bond issue planning and community engagement. The community engagement will start next month, according to Superintendent Steve Larcomb, and will include things like focus groups and tours to gather public opinion.
“Part of this process is going to be the community engagement piece,” Larcomb said. “Bringing folks in; touring the building; get more of those things going; focus groups on what the building should look like regularly. … So the board has a sense of what the community would support.”
The cost of the consultant group offsets the benefits of going to the community prepared for the pre-bond discussion, according to board President Dustin Buckingham.
“That’s not very much money for these consultants,” Buckingham said. “We’re not really filing any drawings with this, that’s not that piece of the puzzle. This is ‘go out and do your research, make some determinations.’ What type of building? Where? What we need to do to best serve the school — it’s just the up-front stuff.”
Buckingham further explained that before the board goes before the community it would be nice to have some architectural drawings with what the building could be. “Our vision of what we’re trying to pass,” he said.
Going to the community and asking for money has been a consistent concern for board member Matt Schwartz.
“We know that there’s never a good time to ask for money,” he said. “But if we can get the pictures of that out, Mike [Scott, facilities and grounds director] said it’s selling itself when you walk through. I think it’s worth it. I recommend it, if any of the board members could get some people that are on the fence and maybe you can get Mr. Larcomb to give you a tour.”
Schwartz raised the question of exploring an all-steel building to the board versus a brick and mortar building that matches the rest of the district.
“There are some nice-looking old steel buildings that we can dress up to look like this,” Schwartz said. “But I don’t know.”
Buckingham explained that school building code doesn’t prohibit the use of all-steel buildings in school districts. However, Larcomb said that it depends on the type of building they want to build and whether it is through the Ohio Facilities Construction Commission.
Treasurer Jessica Busenberg reported that the district has received all of its tax revenue for the first part of the fiscal year, as well as State rollback and homestead money from property taxes.
“Our revenue is about $338,000 higher now compared to last year at this time,” she said. “But about $367,000 was the amount of extra money we received in the homestead and rollback, so overall our revenues are down just a little bit, but close to what they were.”
Tax receipts are down $3,000 this year, Busenberg said. Overall tax revenues are about $112,000 lower than what she had estimated through this part of the fiscal year, she said. State funding is also down $21,000 compared to last year, Busenberg said.
Expenses, however, are about $26,000 lower in August 2018 over August 2017, she said. Overall, expenses are about $37,000 higher compared to last year for the first two months of the fiscal year, but they are still about $150,000 lower than her estimate for the year.
Busenberg also gave the board an update on the five-year financial forecast for the district, which will need to be submitted in October.
She explained that there will be a large increase in benefit costs budget due to health insurance. The rates went up 7.3 percent, she said, which equates an $80,000 increase, which the district has known since May.
Due to young teachers that are just now getting their own health insurance plans and an increase in family policies has led to a potential of nine new insurance policies, both family and single policies. The family policy is about $22,000 and a single policy is $7,000, she said. Busenberg said she is expecting a $200,000 increase in insurance costs for this year.
John Feltman from the Knox County Career Center addressed the board and invited the board members to the annual KCCC dinner Oct. 11, as well as the annual open house Nov. 15, where the public can go through all of the labs and see what the students actually do.
The board additionally approved the following measures:
•The donation of a 4-feet by 8-feet utility trailer from Patrick Forshey valued at $300;
•Establish a student activity fund for the Debate Club activities;
•Renewal with Accent Technologies for one year of ShoreTel Partner support at an annual cost of $5,985;
•The quote from NWOCA/NBEC for off-site server usage for an annual cost of $4,216.60 for a 60-month period;
•The quote from D&K Hathaway for building a new baseball batting cage with concrete at a cost of $11,900;
•The service agreement with NWOCA/NBEC for an additional wireless managed service access point at the high school for $1,412.14 for a 60-months;
•The quote from Revere Roofing Co. to install a snow bar on the elementary roof for the north and south side, $13,185, out of Permanent Improvement Funds.