School board regroups on bond issue

The Mustang Board of Education last week scrapped a planned bond issue and decided to consider an alternative that could go on the November general ballot.
Superintendent Charles Bradley recommended the move – resulting from changes due to the COVID-19 pandemic – at a June 4 special meeting.
“A lot has happened, and we need to come back with what is needed now,” he said.
The board unanimously rescinded its resolution placing a $47 million bond issue on the ballot.
Originally, that vote had been scheduled for April 7, but was postponed because of the pandemic.
Bradley previously had recommended placing a similar proposal on the Aug. 25 primary election runoff ballot.
But last week, he said staff had concluded a different approach is needed in light of changes in needs and projected revenue.
The school district should focus more on tools for distance learning that came to light because of the pandemic, and it must find ways to offset revenue losses due to anticipated lowered funding, Bradley said.
The dropped plan would have created a pre-kindergarten center at the current Mustang Elementary School and constructed a new building to replace the elementary school.
That public gave that proposal mixed reviews on social media and in community meetings.
The new proposal will be tailored to have a broad appeal, Bradley said.
“What you’re asking for (in a bond issue) has to meet the community expectation,” he said.
Bradley plans to present his new proposal at the July board meeting, but board members were hesitant about moving forward on a November vote.
“I wouldn’t put a rush on it right now,” Board President Chad Schroeder said.
Board member Stacy Oldham said the new proposal should allow the district to adapt to potential changes in needs.
“Flexibility needs to be what we’re striving for,” he said.

FINANCIAL OVERVIEW
The vote rescinding the planned bond issue came at the end of an hour and a half discussion of finances.
Bradley and Chief Financial Officer Nancy McKay outlined how they’ve shored up the budget for the upcoming school year and noted the following year will be more challenging.
The budget of the new school year is tapping $3 million that’s been accumulated through Bronco Club, the district’s after-school program.
McKay touted the Bronco Club as the prime example of how Mustang has created outside revenue streams.
The new budget also reduces contracted custodians.
This move allows the district to keep its staff custodians on the job.
Chief Operating Officer Alan Green noted that reducing contracted custodians will put more responsibility on teachers and other staff in cleaning and sanitizing.
“It’s going to be all hands on deck,” he said.
Although Mustang will received reduced revenue because of lowered state collection of the gross production tax, which comes from oil and gas drilling, local property tax growth is likely to continue at a robust pace, McKay said.
Property tax collected grew 10% this year, and they could well be close to that high next year because of continued new home construction, she said.
“We are not going to stop growing,” she said.

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