During the Warsaw School Board meeting Monday, the Burket Fire Department was recognized for its donation of air packs to the Warsaw Area Career Center fire rescue program. Pictured (L to R) are Jill Jackson, WACC assistant director; Max Kinsey, Warsaw-Wayne Fire Territory public information officer and fire rescue teacher; Lt. Shade Keeney, WWFT and Burket Fire Department; Kevin McSherry, Burket fire chief; and Dr. David Hoffert, Warsaw Community Schools superintendent. Photo by David Slone, Times-Union.
During the Warsaw School Board meeting Monday, the Burket Fire Department was recognized for its donation of air packs to the Warsaw Area Career Center fire rescue program. Pictured (L to R) are Jill Jackson, WACC assistant director; Max Kinsey, Warsaw-Wayne Fire Territory public information officer and fire rescue teacher; Lt. Shade Keeney, WWFT and Burket Fire Department; Kevin McSherry, Burket fire chief; and Dr. David Hoffert, Warsaw Community Schools superintendent. Photo by David Slone, Times-Union.
More building improvement projects are on the horizon for Warsaw Community Schools, with some scheduled to start this summer.

At their meeting Monday night, the school board approved to move forward with the 2021 Guaranteed Energy Savings summer work.

Chief Financial Officer April Fitterling said, “We went to Performance Services and said we wanted to continue with our Guaranteed Energy Savings program.” She said they want to do some work on 13 classrooms (the math section of the Warsaw Community High School building) and four sets of bathrooms at WCHS  “because we know that they are priority over there.”

The summer work also includes the water loop at WCHS and the removal of the Jefferson Elementary School gym floor. The town of Winona Lake is going to pay for the installation of the new floor.

The quote from Performance Services for the summer work came back within budget, she said, “which we are very happy with because we all know the cost of construction nowadays has gone up.”

After the meeting, Fitterling said the cost for the summer work is approximately $1.5 million. Another $1.5 million is projected for the WCHS tennis courts, but that project is still being considered and the school board has a meeting set for it today.

Board member Mike Coon asked when the work would begin. Fitterling said “probably the moment the bell rings” for the summer, or a little before. Coon asked if the work would be completed at the last minute before school starts back up in the fall. Director of Maintenance Jim LeMasters said yes.

The board voted 7-0 to go forward with the Guaranteed Energy Savings summer work.

Next up, Todd Samuelson, partner with Baker Tilly, a financial advising company, gave the board a presentation on bonding for a larger project beginning in 2022.

“This evening, I’m going to talk about information related to a proposed lease financing that the school is considering,” Samuelson said.

He said he knows the school board has talked about this for a number of months, if not years, as part of the school corporation’s comprehensive financial planning. Samuelson said Baker Tilly was rather conservative in its assumptions at this point, but the bonds would not be issued until 2022 as the project scope is finalized and the bids are ready, etc.

“As you may recall, the debt structure for the school corporation has been set, restructured, subset. After 2022, the debt service payments for the school corporation start to decrease rather materially in 2023 and beyond. So that creates a significant amount of capacity to take on payments for the ‘bond issue,’” Samuelson said. “... So that the financing of the improvements and the estimate is $30 million for the projects. Financing for the improvements can be layered in as other bond payments fall off and mature so that the net effect ... is that the debt service will not increase and more importantly to the community, there would be no increase to the tax rate for the corporation.”

He said the estimate of $30 million for the projects would be paid off in 16 years. Interest rates currently are “extremely” favorable for bond issuance, he said. As part of its estimates, Samuelson said Baker Tilly assumed no growth in the school district’s assessed valuation at this point in time.

Samuelson said there is a legal process that will begin at the school board’s meetings in March. The school board’s public work session is 4 p.m. March 9 at the central office, with its regular meeting at 7 p.m. March 15, with a location to be determined.

Heather Reichenbach, school board president, clarified, “We are being very conservative in how we are adjusting our numbers here, looking at our numbers. You would assume that there might be an increase in the tax base, but we’re not even assuming that. We’re assuming the tax base stays the same.” She said that would have no tax impact no different than what it is today.

Samuelson said all of their assumptions were conservative and WCS has great flexibility in its debt structure.

Fitterling noted WCS did a general obligation bond in 2019 for classrooms at the high school; and one in 2020 for the 2021 summer work.

No action was taken on Samuelson’s presentation as it was all informational at this point. Samuelson said he’d be back before the board March 9 for consideration of resolutions.

A little later, WCS Superintendent Dr. David Hoffert reported on results of the focus groups’ conversations about improvements needed at WCHS, the Warsaw Area Career Center and Lakeview Middle School. The staff at the three schools all agreed on areas that needed to be addressed: classroom renovation and expansion, safety and security, internal flow and student learning spaces.

After going through a list of needs and suggestions, Hoffert told the board, “Next month, we hope to return with the solidified plan.” He said it’s part of a long-term plan and long-term investment in the school district.

Hoffert said the comprehensive plan mirrors both the financial piece and what can be done within the facilities.

“I feel really strong about the four areas that we talked about right from the beginning that we are on track and from the feedback that we are getting,” he said. “I feel like we’re hitting where our teachers’ needs are, we’re hitting where our students’ needs are and we’re making sure we’re being fiscally wise with our planning that is going on.”

In other business, Warsaw Area Career Center Assistant Director Jill Jackson recognized the Burket Fire Department for its donation of air packs to the WACC fire rescue program. Fire rescue teacher Max Kinsey, Warsaw-Wayne Fire Territory, had WWFT and Burket Fire Department Lt. Shade Keeney and Burket Chief Kevin McSherry with him.

“They donated some air packs to our program, so we’re here to thank them for that,” Jackson said. “Also, when I go out and see the kids on the site training and practicing, they’re always begging to get into the gear and utilize the gear. And these are kids who are never begging to do those kind of things, so it’s really exciting to see that and we can’t do that without your donation so we really appreciate that.”

Hoffert presented Burket with a certificate to say thank you on behalf of the school corporation and administration.