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March 24th, 2019

bond proposal letterCourtesy graphicROBERT PIERCE • Leader & Times

 

After two previously failed attempts, voters in the Turpin, Okla., school district successfully passed three bond propositions which would provide improvements to existing buildings as well as new buildings and new transportation.

The first proposition, which had 76 percent of the vote, provides for updated high school and junior high science classrooms and handicapped accessible restrooms, as well as repair and replacement of roofs over the entire campus and sewer and gas lines which have deteriorated over the last 60 years.

The second proposition, which got 70 percent of the vote, calls for a new pre-engineered metal P.E. facility and a new art room. 

“As things stand right now, the concrete is cracking and shifting, making the floor uneven to run on causing students to trip,” a memo sent to Turpin community members said. “The art room being attached to the P.E. facility has ongoing sewer problems. The restrooms are usable but not ADA compliant, and the shower is unusable because of collapsing sewer lines.”

The third proposition, with 67 percent of ballots cast in favor, calls for a new activity bus, mini bus and suburban.

“We’ve got an activity bus that’s got more than 1.5 million miles,” Turpin Superintendent Keith Custer said. “As I was telling people, it’s days are numbered. That’s something that will be a challenge for us with the financial situation to be able to purchase. Our enrollment continues to grow, and we’ve got more kids to transport to activities. I am so happy for this community, and I just can’t say enough in appreciation for their support of this school district.”

Custer likewise said the science classrooms are simply dated in Turpin’s school buildings.

“Some of the things don’t work, and it just needs to be updated,” he said. “A junior high science room that really needs to be a science room with the equipment and tables and access to water and gas and all of the things. Restrooms ADA compliant and some of those you don’t see such as those sewer lines that stop up from time to time and create an odor, gas lines that really need to be replaced that are 60 years old.”

Custer said he was a little surprised by the vote on the new P.E. facility, as a past vote on such a building failed by just a few votes. He believes tours given prior to Tuesday’s election helped turn the corner this time around.

“People walked out there and looked at that facility and saw the cracks in the floor and the way the building was deteriorating,” he said. “It was obvious something needed to be done. This time around instead of a brick and mortar type of building you might say, just a pre-engineered metal building that will more than satisfy our needs. We’re going to put an art room in there as well. We needed to update our art room, so it will go in that facility.”

Custer said a 13-member comprehensive committee made up of community and business people and school staff initially met with Turpin school board members, as it was determined the scope of the projects was getting bigger by the day. It was then, the superintendent said, school officials said they needed input from the community to see what would get their support.

“They also took time to look at all of the operational changes we were having and kind of weed down the needs and determined what you saw in the propositions as the highest needs of the community or the school district,” he said. 

This, Custer said, was one of the biggest factors in seeing the bond proposals passed Tuesday.

“There were several community people, once we got things going, who really jumped on board, helped to produce and get out information to the public either through social media, through traditional mail, flyers at basketball games, stickers to put on your shirt, just one of the most aggressive campaigns I’ve been a part of, just a lot of people making sure it happened,” he said. “The board was available. We took tours on two different occasions during parent teacher conferences about a week prior to the vote, and one of our student organizations had a luncheon on the Sunday prior to the Tuesday election and gave us an opportunity to take community people who not normally come through the building an opportunity to look and see what we were talking about.”

Custer, who was a teacher at Turpin the last time a bond election took place, said he had no knowledge of the project coming up to a vote at that time.

“I live out of the district,” he said. “I was at a lunch table, and it was coming up for a vote that day or pretty close. I had not heard anything about it, and some of the teachers around the table were, ‘What kind of facility is this?’ I never forget that because I retired as a superintendent in Kansas and came down and had the opportunity to teach here for three years. I was really surprised at the lack of information.”

So when preparations were being made this time around, Custer talked to the school board, saying if nothing else, teachers needed to be informed about what needed to be done.

“We’ve got a total staff of about 70 people that can communicate to the community about what we’re doing, and it sounded me to like not everybody knew what it was about,” he said. “With all that said, just making sure everyone had information.”

Custer said school board members came at the project from the standpoint of making sure all community members knew the election was taking place.

“In the previous one, they heard from people, ‘We didn’t know,’” he said. “To me, that was the key – just getting information out and letting people think about it and discuss it and been given an opportunity. The process they wanted to go was giving the three options. They wanted the community to say, ‘Yes, we want renovations,’ or ‘No,’ ‘Yes we want a P.E./art facility or no.’ Let the community do this. We’ll give them all the information we can, but let the community decide. I really thought that was a good approach instead of just saying one big bond and take it or leave it type approach. I thought that was a really good way to do it.”

As for the cost of the three propositions, Custer said they will be significant. The first proposition for new science rooms will see taxpayers paying an extra $13.20 per $100 for a $1.5 million 10-year bond.

The second proposition for a new P.E. facility and art room will have taxpayers paying an extra $9.68 per every $100 on a $1.1 million 10-year bond.

The transportation bond issue calls for a $5.68 increase per $100 on a $400,000 five-year bond. This means per $100 for the three propositions Turpin taxpayers will be paying a total of $28.56 more on every $100 in taxes over the period of the bond.

Custer said for the first year, Turpin’s mill levy will go up almost 16 mills, but by the end of the 10 years, it will be down to just more than 8 mills.

“It’s going to graduate down as we begin to pay that thing off, but after the fifth year, there’ll be about a 5 mill drop in that,” he said. “That’s pretty significant for a community. That’s why I say this community stepped and said, ‘We’re willing to make a financial sacrifice so we can have a good school for our kids.’ That’s what’s impressed me with this.”

Custer said he is unsure of when work on the projects will begin.

“That’s a good question,” he said with a laugh. “We’ve got a special meeting the 25th of this month where we set the bond sale date, and we also approve contracts for architects, engineers. We should have bonds sold by the first of May, and money will be at hand. Obviously, the transportation, as soon as we find what we need, we can move forward with that. Because of the process you have to go through, all of the plans that will be developed, that will take some time because the engineers, architects will put something together bring it back. We’ll look at it, yes, no, some of that. Within maybe six months, we’ll have plans in place and maybe sooner. Then those have to be sent to the state department of education for approval and the state fire marshal. The state fire marshal, maybe 60 days. I understand their return on those is somewhat slow.”

Custer said the project presents a slight challenge with renovation due to current restrooms and facilities being used.

“Our main sewer line goes right down the middle of our main hall, so that’s got to be a summertime job,” he said. “The renovation of science rooms, we can move some classes around to make that happen, but there’s going to be disruptions for a year. I think, optimistically, we will have everything completed by fall of 2020. The P.E. facility because it’s a standalone, it’s going to be finished, I would say, probably this time next year, but the other is going to take some time just because we’ve got to use summertime to do some of those projects.”

Custer called the passage of the bond issues a positive step for both the Turpin school district and the community.

“It’s nothing over the top,” he said. “These were needs that had to be taken care of, and the community did a fantastic, impressive job of stepping up of saying, ‘Yep, we want it to happen.’ I am so appreciative of this community. A lot of people came together, young and old, kids in school, grandparents saying we need this.”

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