Voters might have to cast two ballots for an expected spring bond initiative that would give USD 435 a new elementary school, provide for security upgrades at other schools, and see the construction of a new gymnasium and auditorium at Abilene High School.
At a special meeting Wednesday, Board of Education members unanimously approved opening discussions with Abilene officials on the possibility of using the city’s authority to levy sales taxes to lessen the impact on property taxpayers in the district.
The board will meet with Abilene commissioners at their work session on Tuesday, to determine their interest in assisting the district with a $27 million to $29 million bond issue.
The board reviewed a $23 million project bond and a $27 million project bond before settling on the higher figure. The actual bond issue would increase by $750,000 to $950,000 to account for the timing and cost of issuing the bonds.
“We’re well past that,” board member Gregg Noel said of the $23 million bond after members discussed the possibility of excluding the construction of a new auditorium from the measure.
An estimate provided by Steve Shogren, of George K. Baum Company, the district’s bond counsel, a 20-year, $27 million project budget would raise USD 435’s bond and interest levy by 13.75 mills. A 25-year issuance would increase the levy by 12 mills.
That estimate includes state aid of 39 percent, which would amount to about $17 million over the life of the loan.
The cost to a homeowner with a $100,000 home would be $11.09 monthly on a 20-year bond or $9.71 per month over 25 years. Dryland farm acreage taxes would increase by $1.01 or 89 cents per acre, respectively.
With the city’s blessing, the district could offset about $400,000 per year with a sales tax that would drop the highest levy to just below 11 mills.
If city commissioners agree to the board’s request to use sales tax funds, two options will be available — a dedicated tax that would last for 10 years or a general tax that would be in effect for the life of the bond.
Shogren presented the district with three options showing the effects of a 0.4 percent sales tax increase, which would raise about $427,000 annually. Shogren estimated 10 percent of the amount raised would remain with the city on a general sales tax increase.
A dedicated sales tax on a 20-year bond would reduce the mill levy to 10.79, or $10.51 per month on a $100,000 home and increase dryland farm taxes by 81 cents per acre.
The same bond term with a general sales tax would reduce the homeowner’s monthly increase to $9.58 and drop farm taxes to 74 cents per acre. The bond and interest levy would be increased by 10 mills.
A 25-year bond and general sales tax would allow for the lowest mill levy of 7.86. The homeowner’s cost would be $7.53 and the per acre cost would be 58 cents for dryland acreage.
A $175,000 business property in the district would pay an additional $43.75 for each mill.
Jeff Bathurst, Randy Gassman and Kari Porter-Murray will represent the board at Tuesday’s work session, which is scheduled to start at 7 a.m. in the city’s conference room.
Board members informally set Dec. 2 as a target date to vote on a resolution to start the bond process, which would allow a special election on the issue to be held in the spring. If the city agrees to use its taxing authority to assist in the measure, two votes will be required with a vote on the sales tax occurring before or simultaneously with the overall bond issue vote.