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Board inches along on parking project

By Bob Buckel | Published Saturday, January 26, 2013

Alvord ISD is a step closer to settling some dust after Thursday night’s school board meeting.

The board voted unanimously to authorize superintendent Bill Branum to get firm estimates on a list of projects including paving parking lots and driveways, purchasing vehicles and putting up electronic signs.

The board capped the cost at $1.8 million and asked Branum to come up with a recommendation on the best way to pay for it.

“I’m looking for an approved list to move forward with so I can look at funding mechanisms and get back to you,” Branum told the board. “I need a definite target to work with, so I can think creatively as to how we can potentially fund these items.”

The big one, obviously, is the high school parking lot at 370,000 square feet of concrete. Branum on Thursday night gave the board an estimate of $925,000 for that job – a six-inch-thick slab with 3/8 reinforcing steel bar. He added $25,000 to account for any grading that needs to be done, and other contingencies that might come up.

At $950,000, the cost comes to a little over $2.56 a square foot.

“I had a couple of people who do this for a living who were kind enough to give us an estimate,” he said. “If we do this, of course we will have to bid it out, and we’ll get all kinds of bids.”

Branum said the project would have to be done during the summer, within a June 6 to Aug. 6 window. The concrete would have to cure and be ready for heavy traffic by the time school starts in August.

“It’s all-inclusive, and it’s concrete,” he said. “This is the best way to guarantee that this school district will not have to spend more money, for years and years, on this type of thing. It was not done previously and I believe we need to do everything we can to try and finish the job.”

Board member Vic Czerniak said items one through seven on the list are “must-haves” while items eight, nine and 10 might be deferred if bids on the concrete exceed estimates.

Board member Jeannette Ward agreed.

“Message boards are not a priority,” she said. “A speaker system in the gym would be a higher priority for me.”

Czerniak suggested it might be possible to defer one message board and use the money for a sound system in the gym.

Branum noted that advertising could possibly cover some or all of the cost of the message boards. The cost is included as if the district were paying it all, he said, but it could be much lower.

And he recommends doing all the concrete work at one time.

“Historically, a bigger job yields you a lower price,” he said.

Board member Kevin Wood echoed that sentiment.

“This is the third time since I’ve been on this board that we’ve addressed this high school parking lot,” he said. “It’s time to put it to bed.”

AUDIT REPORT PRESENTED

Accountant Steve Gilliland of Bowie presented the annual audit report, showing trustees the district’s financial condition, which he said is very good.

“These statements are presented with no qualifications, exceptions or reservations,” he said. “That’s the kind of opinion you want on your financial statement, especially if you’re going to go out and issue any kind of debt.”

The end-of-year financial snapshot showed Alvord ISD’s total assets of $19.5 million and total liabilities a little more than $10 million. The district’s “net assets” – the amount assets exceed liabilities by – went up by more than $600,000 during the year.

“That’s a nice increase in your net assets,” he said. “Things are running in pretty good shape going forward – you had a pretty good year.”

The district’s cash and investments rose by $250,000, with a tax collection rate of 97.6 percent – 99.8 percent when you factor in the past-due taxes that came in during the year.

Gilliland reported the district has about five months’ operating expenses in reserve, noting the fund balance grew by $494,000 during the 2011-2012 fiscal year. He also reported “no compliance or internal issues.”

SUPT., SHERIFF DISCUSS CAMPUS SAFETY

Alvord ISD superintendent Bill Branum told his board Thursday that he had met with Wise County Sheriff David Walker the previous day to talk about security issues, in the wake of the Newtown, Conn., school shooting.

The thrust of the discussion was to determine the possibility of a “resource officer” – a trained and licensed law enforcement officer – who would be dedicated full-time to the Alvord school facilities when classes are in session.

“There may be a time when the Sheriff’s Office will offer us a resource officer, and we may be asked to pay our fair share of the cost for that individual,” he said.

Branum noted that there are several bills in the Legislature’s hopper now to give schools the ability to fund an officer through tax funds. He also said there is hope that some, if not all, of the funding cut two years ago will be restored.

“Police officers are trained to save lives and protect,” he said. “That’s their profession. Ours is how best to educate kiddos and get them ready for the future. We are not police officers.

“The No. 1 thing is, we’re going to do everything within our power to make sure kids are safe, every day.”

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