On Tuesday, voters who live in the Lee County School District will decide whether to allow it to borrow $13.5 million in new bond money. The bonds, which would fund several construction and renovation projects, would not result in a tax increase because they will replace debt that expires next month. To pass, they must get approval from 60 percent of those who cast ballots. Ahead of this week’s election, Daily Journal education reporter Chris Kieffer spoke with Lee County School Board President Sherry Mask about the proposal.
Q: Why are these construction projects important at this time?
A: There are several campuses that are totally out of classroom and cafeteria space. These schools need expansions and/or additions to relieve overcrowding. Other campuses throughout the district are in need of renovations and repairs that are beyond normal maintenance.
Q: How did the district develop its list of proposed projects that would be funded if the bond issue passes?
A: The proposed projects are needs based. A local architect firm has been working with district officials for several months to develop a needs assessment plan for all 13 campuses. The firm examined each campus, met with the individual school administrators for input and analyzed their findings. A final report from the firm was submitted. The process of narrowing down the list to the most immediate needs that could be met within the budget of the bond issue began. The needs assessment plan that the district officials have presented to the communities is what we believe is the best use of those funds to address additions, repairs and renovations throughout the Lee County School District.
Q: If these projects are approved, for how long do you foresee them meeting the district’s needs?
A: If the citizens of the Lee County School District will vote “yes” on Tuesday, July 30, and approve this bond issue to fund these much-needed improvements to our schools, based on studies presented to us, we believe that most projects will meet the needs of most campuses for 10 years or more.
How fast our cities and towns grow in Lee County will be the determining factor of how soon additional projects might be needed in other areas of the district.