August 27, 2014 Edition

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Voters to decide on millage

Gretchen Hunt

The patrons of the Lawrence County School district will have a chance to cast their ballots regarding a proposed millage increase of 6.9 mills for the district in the Sept. 16 school election.

Supt. Terry Belcher said the district maintains a 10-year building plan, which is updated annually as priorities change. He said passage of a millage rate increase would allow the district to complete some needs, as well as some wants.

One of the needs he discussed is adding safe rooms on the campus to be used by both the school and the community.

"A safe room costs about $1,000,000 per room," Belcher said "We may need two because of how the campus is spread out."

He said FEMA will sometimes help with funding of safe rooms, but it is generally based on severe weather having hit in the county.

"We had some bad storms this year, so now there is a chance to get funding, but no guarantee," he said. "We don't want to wait for a major storm to hit us to be able to add safe rooms."

Another issue facing the district is the need for additional elementary classrooms.

"Our elementary building is at capacity," he said. "We are going to apply to the state to add eight classrooms, but there is no guarantee we will get funded. We think we are eligible, but there is no guarantee."

He also noted that even if the state approves the project, the district would still be required to pick up 50 percent of the cost, probably at least $1,000,000.

"We don't want to have kids in portable buildings," he said.

Another need facing the district is an upgrade of the electrical system to keep up with new technology.

"There needs to be an electrical upgrade throughout the buildings," Belcher said. "You can do a little at a time, but at some point you are going to need an electrical upgrade and that adds up."

Belcher said, through the years, many patrons have expressed to board members their desire to have a new gymnasium.

"That is a big want for the district," he said. "We can't afford a new gymnasium without asking for a millage increase."

He said adding a gymnasium could also fulfill some needs. For instance a safe room could be constructed within the gymnasium and auxiliary rooms could be included for classrooms for health professions and possibly family and consumer sciences.

"There are lots of options if the millage goes through," he said. "We will do the biggest bang for the bucks."

Belcher said if the millage doesn't pass, the district will still do its best to complete the needed projects as funding is available.

"We will do things as we can, but you have to have money to operate and money for a rainy day," he said. "I hoped in my time to not ask for a millage increase, but if we want new buildings, and upgrades and to move forward, this is what it is going to take."

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