Pauls Valley, OK, Pauls Valley Democrat

March 27, 2014

A price to pay with WW school issue

Barry Porterfield
Pauls Valley Democrat — Despite some opposition Wynnewood’s top school administrator continues to stand by the belief a bond issue going before voters next week is a good plan.

Superintendent Raymond Cole and other schools officials are pushing for a $20.3 million issue that if passed by at least 60 percent support on Tuesday, April 1 will go to build a new elementary school.

This plan, Cole says, will address current and future building needs for the grade school and Wynnewood’s middle school.

“It’s a compromise, the best compromise we can come up with,” Cole said also referring to two past bond issues that failed with both meant to address building needs in the district.

If voters pass this bond issue the new grade school would be constructed on the north side of town near the Wynnewood football stadium.

With the district’s middle school building facing ongoing problems because of its location in a floodplain, students there would then be moved into the current elementary school.

All of this does include a cost as around $14 million of the issue would be used to build the new grade school, while the remaining $6 will account for the interest on the series bond stretching out over 14 years.

This is something the superintendent says does keep the property tax increases down for landowners in the district.

“By doing this in a series bond we can keep the tax increases down,” Cole said.

“The second thing is during the life of the bond, 14 years, by spreading it out you’re never at your bonding capacity.”

That means the district would still have the flexibility to hold smaller bond issue elections later to address other future needs without raising tax levels, he added.

For this particular bond issue there would an increase of about 22 percent in property taxes.

Still, Cole said the cost of doing nothing could be even higher later.

“I’ve had people ask me why we can’t do a bond issue like Pauls Valley and have no tax increase,” Cole said.

His explanation — the millage level in the Wynnewood district is on the extreme low side, several times lower than places like Pauls Valley or even Stratford, which is similar in size to Wynnewood.

According to Cole, the reason for that is many of Wynnewood’s school boards through the years have made a strong commitment to keeping the school district’s debt low.

Sounds good, he says, but there’s in a sense a price to pay for that.

“Nobody likes to go into debt, but you just can’t do these things without incurring some debt,” Cole said.

“No school district can build a new school building without having debt,” he said. “A district can’t pay for these things out of the regular building fund.

“You have to get to the point where you’ve got some debt if you want to put in new windows or buy school buses or make many needed improvements.”

With the election set for April 1, in-person absentee voting is also offered from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. Thursday and Friday, March 27-28 at the Election Board office located in the county courthouse.