Springfield schools to spend $12.6M on capital improvements

Capital Plan by the numbers:

17: Total school buildings maintained by the district, including The Dome.

$4.9 million: Available funding as of May 2016 from permanent improvement levy and other sources.

$12.6 million: Total capital plan from fiscal year 2017 to 2020.

$171 million: Value of district’s capital assets.

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The Springfield News-Sun digs into government spending, including recent stories examining retirement cash-outs in public payrolls and school construction costs.

Springfield City School District expects to spend between $2.5 million and $4 million each of the next five years on capital projects, including sealing and resurfacing school parking lots, athletics site upgrades and technology.

The $12.6 million capital plan was presented at a school board work session Wednesday.

The money to support the projects comes from the district’s permanent improvement levy that generates about $750,000 per year, millage built into the school’s building projects for maintenance, federal money allocated for school technology, and about $1.7 million expected to be committed by the board from the general fund.

“We have a lot of flexibility,” because of the district’s healthy financial situation, board member Jamie Callan said. “There are a lot of districts that would just love to be in the position we are in.”

Long-term, the plan estimates the district will make a $20 million investment into its $171 million worth of capital assets over 10 to 15 years. That includes anticipating possible major repairs like roof replacements on any of the districts 16 buildings constructed between 2004 and 2008.

“We’re just trying to make sure we have a road map and a financial plan in case something should go wrong,” Treasurer Dale Miller said.

Board President Ed Leventhal stressed the board isn’t looking to spend money just because it has it and he’d like to see more information about academic return on investment when the district spends on things like technology.

Some districts that have implemented return on investment reports for their schools, Superintendent Bob Hill said, and Springfield is looking to begin doing that at the administration level next school year, eventually trickling that down to each building.

“We want to be tying the budget to strategic priorities to get an academic return on investment,” Hill said.

Because the district's facilities are fairly new, much of the short-term capital spending is allocated to technology. The district is budgeted to spend about $2.2 million on network, software and hardware upgrades next year. About half of that is a local match required to get discounts of up to 90 percent under the federal government's E-rate program.

Other capital projects are budgeted on the five-year plan as a worst-case scenario, but will really be addressed as needed, Miller said, like parking lot maintenance, bus replacement and roof repairs.

Kenwood, Fulton and Springfield High schools have already been bid to get their parking lots resealed this year. The earliest any roof work is expected is 2017 based on current assessments.

The district is replacing between two and four buses per year out of its 36-vehicle fleet, but expects that to slow as new technology is allowing them to last longer.

Additional projects have been presented as wish lists from the athletics department and the various school buildings. The projects have been ranked by the capital plan committee and tentatively scheduled out over the next three years. But each project is contingent on money being available and board approval.

New stadium lights at the high school are at the top of the athletics list because the current lighting creates safety hazards, Miller said. The $350,000 replacement is in the process of being bid, he said.

New turf at both Evans Stadium and the high school stadium are on the list at $750,000 a piece. Miller said both are listed because no decision has been made by the board as to whether either or both are a priority. Turf at Evans is ranked second on the list while the high school stadium turf is ranked 15th.

School principals’ requests include digital marquee signs that are going up soon at each school building at a cost of about $170,000 total. Security upgrades were also on several of the schools’ lists.

Miller expects to bring a proposal before the board soon to install additional security doors once people enter each elementary school. It will cost an estimated $25,000 per building, but will bring the schools up to the security standards new buildings are designed with.