Union schools sets bond vote
BY KIM ARCHER World Staff Writer
Tuesday, November 13, 2012
11/13/12 at 8:04 AM
The Union school board voted Monday to call a special election for a $20.4 million bond proposal to expand and remodel the 6th and 7th Grade Center, replace the track at the high school and other projects.
The election will be held Feb. 12.
The bond issue also will address what the board called critical needs, including textbooks, software, maintenance and improvements at each school.
"The fact that (state) funding is continuing to decline is very much a challenge," Superintendent Cathy Burden said.
Remodeling and expanding the 6th and 7th Grade Center and replacing the high school track are the top priorities, she said.
Burden said Union's secondary school population, particularly at the 6th and 7th Grade Center, has grown this year.
An estimated $5.7 million would be spent to increase classroom space through an expansion, as well as remodel the facility's exterior, she said. That includes completing the fine arts wing and purchasing furniture, fixtures and equipment and constructing parking lots, driveways and sidewalks.
An additional $4.2 million would let the district replace its track, install a turf infield and pole vault pit at the track, and renovate locker rooms, weight rooms, restrooms, offices, concession areas, bleachers, fencing and the press box at the field.
"Replacing that track has not been done in the 19 years I've been here, and it wasn't new then," Burden said, adding that the track now is "really not safe for our students."
A turf infield would allow a place for the band to practice and for all athletes to use as needed, she said.
Burden said $1.4 million would be used to buy computers and software required for the state's latest testing mandates.
"We have the requirement to test, but we do not have the equipment at this point," she said.
If patrons reject the bond proposal, Burden said, the district would have no recourse other than to schedule another election.
The bond issue follows one in 2011 and another in 2012 that were largely used to fund the newly opened Union Collegiate Academy, a $29 million facility built as a north wing to the high school. The 125,000-square-foot building has 37 classrooms in three stories, a student union, a multimedia room that seats 300 and a tiered lecture room with a retractable wall.
Annual bond issues are the standard at Union to provide "technology-rich classrooms and quality facilities for athletics, fine arts and all schools," district spokeswoman Gretchen Haas-Bethell said. Patrons "have historically demonstrated their support for Union schools by casting their votes during bond issue elections."
She said Union has called bond elections in all but one of the past 23 years and that "the yes vote average has exceeded 82 percent" in recent years.
Haas-Bethell said the bond issues don't raise property taxes.
"Because the district pays off existing bonds (as new ones are added) and its property base continues to grow, that portion of estimated ad valorem tax attributed to Union Public Schools will be maintained at its traditional level," she said.
In other action: The board approved hiring a service that uses dogs to detect drugs, alcohol and guns in schools.
The board also approved buying a $98,274 bus for special education students. Funds for the purchase came from the 2012 bond issue.
Other suburban schools: The Broken Arrow school board voted Monday to call an election to fill the seat of board member Shari Wilkins, the longest serving board member. She had announced that she would not seek re-election. The Zone 3 seat is a five-year term.
In Jenks, board member Joe Hidy has decided not to seek re-election to the school board. Hidy has been on the board for 10 years.
Original Print Headline: Union schools sets bond vote
Kim Archer 918-581-8315
Superintendent Cathy Burden: "Replacing that track has not been done in the 19 years I've been here, and it wasn't new then."