Certain Renovations Could Come Sooner Than Expected in Dist 117

By Jeremy Coumbes on April 29, 2021 at 10:43am

The possibility of building updates in some Jacksonville schools, and maybe even another building renovation could be closer to becoming reality for District 117.

The Jacksonville District 117 School Board reviewed Phase 3 of the Vision 117 plan for the updating of school buildings in the district during their regular meeting last night.

Superintendent Steve Ptacek says a combination of federal stimulus monies and an unexpectedly higher tax revenue means discussion of the potential for future projects will happen sooner than anyone expected coming into the year.

He says the district has been saving $1 to $2 million each year in anticipation of Phase 3 projects because the district is limited in ways of funding via bond sales due to the lack of a debt service extension base. Ptacek says the board has kept this in mind while saving for Phase 3.

Knowing that we’ve still got Washington Elementary built in 1932, and Murrayville Woodson built in 1917, the main portion, that we need to take care of, we’ve been anticipating a day in the future where we were going to save up enough money to be able to do one of those projects. Well the federal stimulus money came in the ESSER money came in and we are allowed to do air quality upgrades which include the HVAC, windows, and doors, the building envelope component for a project.

That’s about $3.5 million of the Washington project which our architect predicts will cost $11.1 million. That then drops the cost to about $7.6 million, which we have in the fund balance. So we knew coming into this year we would be talking about doing the Washington renovation.”

Ptacek says an additional stream of revenue is also causing the need for conversation of more involved projects.

We also found out since January one, we just got our sales tax dollars in, that the online sales tax dollars are starting to come in from people who are making purchases online, and that’s going to allow us another bond sale. We don’t know how much right now, but potentially it could be $4 to $10 million.

With that, we have to discuss what we are going to do with $9 million in our fund balance, $3.5 million in ESSER funds, and potentially up to $10 million in sales tax revenue. That initiated a Phase 3 initial discussion with the board about what direction we might go.”

The federal stimulus money or ESSER funds provided by the CARES Act would also be used in updating certain areas of other school buildings in the district. Ptacek says approximately $12 million is available for air quality upgrades around the district. However, he says time is of the essence as there is a limited amount of time the funds can be used.

The ESSER 2 money which is the smaller amount, has to be used by September 2023. The ESSER 3 money, the larger amount has to be used, and we are talking about jobs completed and companies paid by September 2024. Therefore, we need to start really actively thinking about what projects we are going to do.

Brought up tonight was an investigation of putting an HVAC system into North. Putting up more walls and an upgraded HVAC system to accommodate that change at Eisenhower. Potentially could that be used to put in an HVAC system at The Bowl? I don’t know if that will be because it’s not really an educational building. But with $12 million towards those options, we need to start looking across the district on what we can do with this money.”

Ptacek says as an example, a geothermal HVAC system at North Elementary could take up to 18 months to go from planning stages through to completion.

He says even though last night’s discussion was just an early step to get the further discussion going, the board would ultimately need to make those decisions by the end of the calendar year for there to be enough time for projects to be implemented and completed on time.