Consultants: Schools need $32M in repairs

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, July 24, 2002

[07/24/02]Preliminary results of a study commissioned by the Vicksburg Warren School District says its 13 buildings need repairs and improvements costing in excess of $32 million.

The report by Johnson, Bailey, Henderson and McNeel, P.A., a Tupelo architectural firm specializing in schools, was submitted to trustees who met Tuesday night.

Superintendent Donald Oakes said the report would be studied and priorities would be set by board vote.

“We are not going to write a check for $32 million,” Oakes said.

Gary Bailey, a partner in the firm, said rankings are suggested in the report, but agreed any action would be up to the elected trustees. “Some of the repairs can be done in-house,” he said, “And we will assist them with that and help them in any way we can.”

The report covers a wide range, from $1.8 million for roofing various structures to $5.2 million for expanding high school band halls and fine arts facilities.

In addition to ranking the projects, Oakes said how to pay for any work authorized by the trustees will be an issue.

The 9,200-student district, created through consolidation in 1987, does not have a major capital improvement category in its record $63.3 million budget for the fiscal year that started this month. The plan calls for a $1.2 million increase in local revenue. The formal request that will likely result in a significant tax increase countywide was also forwarded to the Warren County Board of Supervisors at the meeting.

The last major capital outlays were for $28 million worth of new construction and repairs to existing elementaries in 1998. To build schools on Sherman Avenue and Dana Road, the trustees borrowed about $14 million, the local maximum, through the Mississippi Adequate Education Act and budgeted to pay the remainder. That process resulted in consolidation of elementaries as part of a modified school choice initiative begun in 1999.

School trustees here have never sought a bond issue, which would be another route to raise funding. In Mississippi, school bond issues must be approved by a 60 percent of voters in a required referendum. Repayment then follows through an added, special property tax.

In other action, school trustees:

Accepted $500 from River City Business & Professional Women to the Warren Central High School Choices Program to be used for scholarships.

Accepted six computers, a TV, a printer, a refrigerator, a range, an overhead projector, a copier and a set of eight risers with a total value of $950 from G&C Contractors to be donated to Bowmar Elementary School and Beechwood Elementary School.

Accepted recommendations for new hires.

Accepted recommendation to begin offering breakfast at Vicksburg High School and Warren Central High School, starting Sept. 3.

Accepted recommendations to raise cafeteria prices for non-students to $2.25 for lunch and $1.25 for breakfast.

Approved two out-of-state trips for students. One was for 45 Warren Central Naval Junior ROTC cadets to a summer drill camp at the Naval Air Station in New Orleans. The other was for students of Teri Vollor at Warren Central Junior High School to go to Poverty Point, La.

Accepted to dispose of items considered to be surplus.

Approved a contract renewal with TCLC Mississippi Behavior Clinic to continue a program of teaching teachers to work with students with autism.

Accepted the recommendation of Tommy Walker, Warren County forester, that Pine Belt Inc. be paid $9,862.54 as the low bidder for site preparation and release work on harvesting done on 182 acres of 16th Section Land in three locations.