South Tippah explains federal stimulus fund useage

RIPLEY – South Tippah Superintendent Frank Campbell this week outlined how $2 million in federal stimulus funds would be used in the school district. The district has applied for about $2.1 million in federal funds, and plans to use the money – when received – for improvements to the Oscar Shannon facility, Pine Grove School, and Blue Mountain School. Lesser priorities include possible improvements to the district office and classroom construction at Ripley Elementary School, Campbell said. “We were advised July 23 that we’ve been approved for the funds. We have three years from that date to get all the money committed. However, federal guidelines indicate we need to get some of that money in circulation within the first 120 days of the approval date,” Campbell said this week. He said the district’s top priorities for using the money are remodeling some rooms at the Oscar Shannon building – which is the old Ripley Kindergarten – and reroofing the building, and re-roofing the Pine Grove High School building. The Shannon building is used for a variety of purposes, including staff development classes for teachers, an adult GED program offered through Northeast Mississippi Community college, and the district’s GED program. Plans are also under way to develop a district pre-GED program which would meet there. Both buildings can be re-roofed without taking off the existing roofs, which are believed to be each building’s original ones, the superintendent said. Campbell said he hopes to advertise for bids on those projects out before the end of the year. District architect Gary Shafer of Starkville will be responsible for developing the bids. Beyond those two projects, the federal funds would pay for construction of an activity building at Pine Grove. That building would be built on a former football field, now being used as a playground behind Pine Grove Principal Tony Elliott’s office. It would not connect to the main building. It would not include a gymnasium, but could include a half-court area. Its size has not yet been determined. The building would make it easier for the school to meet toughened state requirements requiring motion-based daily physical education. Presently, many students get their state-required physical education by running and doing exercises in the in the school gymnasium. Other students, however, get their PE on a stage in the school auditorium as well as in academic classrooms. “We’re managing, but it’s not the best scenario. We really need a place,” Campbell said. The proposed activity building would also see other uses. The baseball team could practice in it, using a pitching machine and a net. It could possibly house a snack area. The proposed building would also be available for community activities. Beyond the activity building, there is a “significant need” for construction of a cafeteria building at Blue Mountain to replace the present cafeteria. It hasn’t been determined where it would be built, or if the old cafeteria would be re-purposed for anything other than storage. Once those projects are complete, any money left over could be allocated to other possibilities with lesser priorities, including some improvement work at the district’s central office and constructing classrooms at Ripley Elementary School, the superintendent said. -0- RIPLEY — The South Tippah School District recently voted to participate in the America Reinvestment and Recovery Act (ARRA), better known as “Stimulus Package,” that makes funding available to each school district for the purposes of constructing, remodeling, upgrading, and/or equipping of facilities, and for the purchase of land for such facilities. The school district plans to borrow approximately $2.1 million of the ARRA (Stimulus) money. The money will be made available to the school district interest free (no interest). The school district will have 14 to 16 years to repay the money depending on the structure of the loan. The money would be issued to the district in the form of interest-free Qualified School Construction Bonds. The bonds will be attractive to lenders because the lender receives a tax credit. The repayment is to be made in one lump sum payment at the end of the term, either 14 or 16 years. South Tippah School Board president David Duncan has previously outlined how the money would be repaid. During the 14 to 16 year term of the loan, the district will deposit an annual payment (approx. $140,000) into an interest-bearing account to be held and draw interest (for 14 to 16 years) until the lump sum payment is due. At that time the district may use all money in the holding account plus the interest accrued on the account to repay the loan, Duncan said. Assuming, a 3 percent rate and annual compounding, the interest earned at the end of 15 years would be approximately $500,000. Therefore, almost one-fourth of the money borrowed would be repaid by the earned interest alone, Duncan said. *For the annual payments, the money will come from two sources. The district has state money in the amount of approximately $80,000 that the school board will dedicate to the annual note payment. This leaves approximately $60,000 that will be paid annually from the issuance of a 3 mil note. One mil in the South Tippah District amounts to just over $70,000, so the actual amount of increase in tax will be less than one mil (10 cents on $100). Actually, the school district currently has a 3 mil note that ends this year that is at a rate of 1.98 mils, so district patrons’ taxes will actually decrease by more than one mil even with the new loan, Duncan said.

Southern Sentinel