Cottonwood-Oak Creek sets course for bond project

New asphalt for school parking lots, such as this one at Dr. Daniel Bright School, will be among the first priorities for the Cottonwood-Oak Creek School District. VVN Vyto Starinskas and Ed Bustya.

New asphalt for school parking lots, such as this one at Dr. Daniel Bright School, will be among the first priorities for the Cottonwood-Oak Creek School District. VVN Vyto Starinskas and Ed Bustya.

Cottonwood-Oak Creek officials have plotted out the next five months of their municipal bond process, and business manager David Snyder is leading the project.

"We're basically in the planning stages right now," he said. "There are some things that we can do, but it's just kind of setting up timelines and looking ahead."

Snyder has been going to each of the district's five schools, talking to staff and letting them know about the bond and the oversight committee being formed to act as a steward of the public's dollars.

"We've also done some direct contact with some of the groups that support us and that we talked to during the bond presentations," he said. "We're looking for people that are community members that are interested in what we're doing, ensuring the district is spending money like they set out in their voter pamphlet."

The committee of four to six people will be set by the end of December, and start meeting by January. Its duties will be to:

1.  Review project priorities

2.  Review completion time lines

3.  Ensure District compliance with the budgets set forth in the voter pamphlet

4.  Review vendor billing and payment information

"The bond sales aren't going to happen until spring, so we won't have funding probably until May," Snyder said.

A request for architects' qualifications is currently up on the district website, and will be awarded in January. Then, the district will decide whether to hire its general contractor through a bidding process or a cooperative contract.

Through April when the sale of the bonds will take place, the district is also meeting regularly with the oversight committee and lawyers alike.

"The district has to hire or work with attorneys through the whole process," Snyder said. "They'll prepare documents, work with different bond companies that will be selling the bonds and marketing the bonds."

Governing board members will vote in February to approve the sale of the bonds in April, though the community will be notified of the sale and invited to participate in March.

"This is to let local investors have a chance to buy blocks of these bonds before they get bought up by institutional investors," he said. "Municipal bonds are in high demand."

These types of bonds are sold by cities or public entities, like school districts, to raise funds for capital projects. Investors are attracted to them because they're exempt from federal taxes, and sometimes state and local taxes too.

The bond committee will also have prioritized the list of projects to be completed using the bond dollars by March, at which point the school board will discuss it. Buses, about 15 new ones, will be priced and possibly ordered at this time as well.

Some of the oldest buses in the current fleet will be traded in. The district runs about 20 buses each weekday, so Snyder said the plan is to keep a few of the old ones as spares.

"We are seriously looking at going with propane buses," Snyder said. "The data that we've got is that they're cheaper to run, cheaper to maintain, and run cleaner. You don't have that big puff of smoke coming out of the bus in front of you."

Snyder said some of the first projects are likely to start by the time school lets out, like repaving some of the worst parking lots in the district.

"Some of the projects, like asphalt at Dr. Daniel Bright especially and our other campuses, we're hoping to get those done quickly so we can get those done before school starts next fall," he said.

Technology purchases will also be made around the tail end of the school year, accounting for about $1.4 million in planned bond expenditures.

"Right now the technology department is working with this budget and getting quotes for equipment," he said.

While many of the improvements will be behind the scenes, the district does have a goal to increase student devices so that each student has one. The ratio is currently about two students per device.

"The priority is to get the network up to the standard it should be, then get the devices in the classroom for students," Snyder said.

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