A new Jones-Wheat school?

Published 9:59 am Friday, September 21, 2012

Jones Wheat School

Board approves plan to build new school with E-SPLOST funds



Email newsletter signup

The Decatur County Board of Education has given approval to school superintendent Dr. Fred Rayfield to move forward with construction of a new school to replace Jones-Wheat Elementary School.

The project, along with two other capital projects, will be funded with proceeds from a $15 million bond sale, and the debt incurred from that bond sale will be repaid from the one-cent Education Special Local Option Sales Tax (E-SPLOST).

At Thursday’s meeting of the school board, Rayfield estimated that the new school would cost roughly $10 million. The remainder of the funds generated from the bond sale would be used to replace aging school buses, at a rate of two per year over a five-year period, and technology upgrades and equipment.

The renewal of the E-SPLOST tax, along with the list of accompanying projects, was approved by 82 percent of the voters last November.

“We have discussed renovation, versus complete replacement of Jones-Wheat,” Rayfield said. “In the architect’s opinion, and in the State of Georgia’s facilities consultant’s opinion, the age of that building does not lend itself to renovation.”

The school was opened in 1954.

The new school will be located on the same site as the existing school. The initial plan, pending board approval, would be to begin demolition of the existing school in May 2013, at the end of the school year.

Jones-Wheat students would be relocated to the old West Bainbridge Middle School location for the 2013-2014 school year, pending board approval, and the new school construction would be complete and ready for occupancy with the start of the 2014-2015 school year.

From the financing timeline presented to the board, Morgan Keegan, a financial services company, will begin to market the bonds on Nov. 13 and the school system will receive the funding on Dec. 4. These funds are separate from the system’s normal operating revenues, which are based largely on local property taxes and state allocations. E-SPLOST funds, which are based on local sales taxes, must be spent on capital projects.

“In order to start that process, we have several months worth of steps before we can even get to the point to determine how that project will lay out,” Rayfield said. “We will need to have conversations with other agencies and groups in the community before taking on a project like this.”

The new bond issue will be structured in a way that the entire $15 million will be repaid in five years, in 2017. The debt incurred from the 2007 bond issue that was used to fund the construction of Bainbridge High School has a maturity date of 2032.

Of the $23 million that the tax is estimated to generate over the next five years, $15.5 million would be allocated to repay the proposed new debt and $7.53 million would be allocated to repay the 2007 bond issue.