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New roof or new school?
Gainesville board may rebuild Fair Street, seeks funds to fix roofs at 4 buildings
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Facility funding options for Gainesville schools

  • General obligation bonds: Bonds require voter approval and it would take at least two years to access funds.
  • Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax: The tax requires voter approval. The next SPLOST vote is in 2011, and if approved, funds could be accessed in 2012.
  • Use state capital entitlement funds: The Gainesville system has $15 million in the state fund, but must contribute 20 percent of project cost to access funds. The General Assembly could appropriate the money in its 2011 session.
  • Use some of regular operating fund: The Gainesville system has a roughly $780,000 deficit, but aims to eliminate it and have a small surplus by July.
  • Use federal stimulus funds available to schools: The board has been advised not to consider this option because using the stimulus funds would require the system to pay all project workers according to the Davis Bacon Act, which would cost the system more.

The Gainesville school board reviewed its financial options Friday as it plans to repair four school building roofs and possibly construct a new Fair Street International Baccalaureate World School.

The board is poised to approve bidding at its work session Monday night to hire a construction manager for the projects.

Gainesville Superintendent Merrianne Dyer said the system has $1.4 million in residual bond funds from the construction of the new $33 million middle school that was completed under budget. She said the board could use the remaining money from the special 1-cent sales tax, or SPLOST, fund to repair school roofs and start site planning for the new Fair Street school.

Dyer said it may be more fiscally prudent to rebuild Fair Street than to replace its leaky roof. The school also has plumbing, waterproofing and electrical problems.

"It’s going to take $7 million to repair that building, and that’s just to bring it up to standard, and that’s not enhancing," she said. "We can build an awfully nice enhanced school for $12 million to $14 million."

She said the new Fair Street building would be constructed around the existing gym, which has historical significance to the community. Although the gym will need a new roof, Dyer said the remainder of the structure is in good condition.

But the board’s top priority is to use the $1.4 million in residual bonds to quickly repair school building roofs and fix electrical problems at Fair Street.

Keith Vincent, director of maintenance and operations for Gainesville schools, estimates that it will cost $3.1 million to make replacements or repairs to Fair Street, Centennial Arts Academy, Enota Multiple Intelligences Academy, Wood’s Mill Academy and the old gym at Gainesville High.

The board can soon begin allocating the $1.4 million to roof work that will be done this winter, Dyer said. State law requires the funds be used in facility improvements.

"I think we’re in a much better position knowing that we can go ahead and do something," she said. "We don’t have to just sit and patch. We can go ahead and get started."

Doug Eza, a finance and human resources consultant for the Georgia School Superintendents Association, informed the school board Friday of its financial options to fix school roofs.

He shared five options with the board, including using 2012 SPLOST funds, pending voter approval in 2011, or using capital entitlement funds to finance renovations or Fair Street construction. Eza said the Gainesville school system could access $15 million in state funds if the General Assembly appropriates the funds in 2011. The Gainesville system must contribute 20 percent of the project cost to access the capital entitlement money.

The system is revising its five-year facilities plan to pave the way for General Assembly approval of those funds.

"It’s important that you plan and consider that money a part of the plan," Eza told the board.

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