Faulk to scale back tax plans in Central

Superintendent Michael Faulk announced Monday that he is scaling back a series of spending proposals he outlined earlier this year, suggesting instead that Central voters consider just one, not four, propositions when they head to the polls on Nov. 16.

Faulk is proposing selling $13.1 million in construction bonds, with about $8.1 million dedicated to Central High School. That includes an estimated $5.8 million for a new ninth-grade academy on campus.

To finance the bonds, Faulk is suggesting preserving 23.65 mills in property tax Central residents pay for capital improvements. That’s about $3 million less in bonds than Faulk had suggested selling when he first pitched his spending plans back in April.

“I’ve narrowed it down to the things we absolutely have to do,” Faulk said.

Faulk laid out his ideas to the School Board on Monday and is asking the board to vote on July 22.

Faulk is now suggesting spending $1.5 million to improve the former Central Middle school campus, down from $5 million in his original proposal. That proposal also envisioned the city leasing and renovating office space in the old school building, which last was in use in May 2012. Now, Faulk is suggesting demolishing six structures on the campus and improving the parking.

Since April, the School Board and the City Council have met jointly and much public discussion has occurred, but no path forward has been settled on. City Council members have differed over whether the old middle school is suitable to serve as the core of a planned city center.

“Until they decide on how they will proceed with their master plan for a city center and have further discussions with the school system, we will not proceed,” Faulk said in a memo to School Board members.

Faulk also is setting aside a proposal to create a separate property tax just for increasing employee salaries and will look for additional money elsewhere to do so in time for the 2014-15 school year.

The current 23.65 mills in property taxes were approved in 2009 to pay for new Central intermediate and middle schools, completed last summer, as well as funding other improvements. With that work largely complete, the millages will soon begin to decrease over time.

Grant Schlueter, a bonding attorney with Foley & Judell, said that selling $13.1 million in new bonds would mean that millage rates will stay higher that they otherwise would be.

But he said he doubts that the school system will need to levy the entirety of the current millage for very long. He said the tax base in Central is growing.