MONTGOMERY — The Barr-Reeve School Board gave approval on Tuesday night’s meeting to millions of dollars in spending including the first steps toward a bond project to upgrade the system’s transportation. The board gave initial approval to resolutions that would establish a $2.25 million general obligation bond issue that in the preliminary paperwork would carry a tax rate of $0.07 per hundred dollars valuation.

“We looked at our threshold and went to the maximum,” said Barr-Reeve School Superintendent Dr. Travis Madison. “I feel like we can do that and keep the tax rate neutral. Folks won’t see an increase in property taxes. In fact I’m projecting that our tax rate will go down.”

Part of the reason for the lower rate is the school system has a bond used to pay for retiring teachers coming off the books. Another reason is that the assessed valuation went up over last year.

School officials plan to use the money to ramp up their transportation system. Among the items planned for purchase with the bonds are a former Traylor Truck garage with equipment and some additional land for $310,000. The school system is also looking at purchasing as much as $1 million in buses.

“I just thought the timing was right for us to get a building that will serve us as a transportation center and look at purchasing some buses and build a fleet to take over our transportation by the corporation and save some money in the long term,” said Madison.

Board President Lana Helms commented that the project has a lot going for it. “We have seen how neighboring schools have tried to get new buildings for their buses, and it didn’t work out so well,” she said. “This should put us in a good position and right now the interest rates are good.”

The bond proposal does include a possible interest rate of 5% and a potential 20 year pay-off, but school officials say they do not expect the bonds to sell that way. “All of those are max numbers,” said Madison. “We are hoping when the bonds go to market we will get a much better rate than that. Some of those yearly payments and anticipated tax rate, finance charge or interest rate, we hope those are much lower.”

School officials are hoping to complete the paperwork and sell the bonds some time in October.

School officials are projecting a need to take over more of the transportation in the school system. Madison told the board that it is becoming increasingly difficult to find contract bus drivers. He also noted that many of the buses the school system does own are getting very old.

School officials are even considering purchasing a bus out of the operations fund. The board held a hearing on potential expenditures out of that fund for capital projects and buses. “If you are going to spend money on those items you have to have a plan approved by the board,” said Madison. “If you are going to buy a bus out of operations, have it in your plan. If you are going to improve your building, plan it out.”

The board also authorized a $500,000 additional appropriation to go into the instructional fund for the remainder of the year. School officials are not saying they will spend the money, but with the year winding down they want to have a cushion of cash for the unexpected.

“When I plan the budget I am working on it 18 months in advance,” said Madison. “I do a lot of conservative estimates. Through the year costs go up on things. We are right where I thought our spending would be for fiscal year 2019. You just never know what’s going to happen between now and the end of the year. We have some additional revenue. It’s a safety net if something unforeseen happens. We’re just getting permission to spend it if we need it.”

In other business the board delayed passing the budget until a special meeting on Sept. 25. The board also heard a presentation from the Daviess Community Hospital and the Indiana Rural Health Association to establish a Telehealth station in the nurses office to help deal with children who have acute medical needs.

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