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2 boards ponder larger school bond referendum

Posted on Thursday, March 28, 2013 at 5:38 pm

MILFORD – Saying $25 million might be only a short-term fix, school and county officials are now considering a $30 million bond referendum to expand Caroline High School and Madison Elementary School.

The Caroline County School Board and the Board of Supervisors held a joint work session related to capital projects on Tuesday, and the two panels discussed whether to raise the stakes in a proposed school bond referendum.

The School Board asked the Board of Supervisors earlier to set a bond referendum for a $21 million expansion and renovation of the high school and $4 million for an addition and improvements to the elementary school. The supervisors have not acted yet on the request but have asked their attorney to begin making preparations for a referendum.

Enrollment at Madison is growing, and a $4 million project might serve the school’s needs for five years, said Superintendent Greg Killough. A bigger expansion, in the range of an additional $3 to $5 million, might buy another 10 years before the school is overcrowded, he said.

“Why add four to six classrooms,” asked School Board member George Spaulding, only to outgrow it in a few years? “Why not add eight classrooms?”

Supervisor Floyd Thomas threw out the number $28 million for the two schools, but Killough said a better ballpark figure would be $30 million given that Madison would need a larger cafeteria to accommodate growing enrollment.

The bond issue under consideration would cost 6 to 10 cents on the real estate tax rate based on 20-year financing, Thomas estimated. “Ten cents is a lot money,” he added. (For a home assessed at $150,000 10 cents in real estate taxes – 10 cents per $100 of assessed value – would amount to $150.)

Enrollment also is growing at Lewis and Clark Elementary School, noted Killough. The situation “is pretty desperate,” he said, “with almost 1,100 students, and there’s a lot of complaining.”

The school bond referendum, if approved by the supervisors, could be placed on the ballot for a special election in five months – August, said assistant county administrator Alan Partin. There is no requirement that it be held in conjunction with the November election, he noted.

The high school project would include an addition across the front of the building for 12 classrooms, four vocational labs, a new library, new administration and guidance counselor offices, and entrance. The expansion also would include a second gymnasium that would seat 2,500.

The high school, built in the mid-1970s, also needs extensive renovations and improvements, including bathrooms and lockers, HVAC systems, electrical and lighting, intercom and security camera systems, science labs, cafeteria kitchen, roof, track, and stadium bleachers.

The project at Madison Elementary School would add four classrooms to eliminate trailers at the school and also include a new gym, entrance, and bathrooms. The school’s existing multi-purpose room would be converted to a new, larger library. The school also is in need of more paved parking.

Enrollment in Caroline County Public Schools was 4,222 in the fall of 2012. It is projected to grow to 4,529 by 2016 and 4,846 by 2022.