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Money moves

CCA receives HS addition bids and refinances some debt

OXFORD– The Clear Creek Amana (CCA) School Board of Directors met in regular session on Thursday, Oct. 22, at the district’s administrative building near Oxford.
Superintendent Tim Kuehl advised the board 10 bids had been received, and opened, for the upcoming addition to the high school in Tiffin. The addition, the second for the high school, which opened in 2009, is the final project funded by the $36 million bond issue voters approved in September 2017. Previously funded projects included Oak Hill Elementary in Tiffin and replacing the gym (along with other improvements) at Clear Creek Elementary (CCE) in Oxford. Oak Hill opened in August 2018, and the CCE project is in the final stages with occupancy expected in November.
Twelve classrooms, including one science room and one agriculture room will be built, and an outdoor area will be enclosed and converted into a student commons and project-based learning area.
Shive-Hattery, the district’s architectural and engineering consultant, estimated a base cost of $5.8 million for the project. Kuehl noted McComas-Lacina (MLC) submitted the low bid in the amount of $4,887,000.
“It’s a good bid environment for us,” Kuehl said based on the interest shown by bidders. He also pointed out, “The entire range (of bids) was under $1 million (less than the estimate), and six were within a couple hundred thousand dollars (of each other). Obviously, it is a very competitive market right now.”
The board is expected to approve the bid from MLC during its regular November meeting.
“We’ve had a good experience with MLC,” which built the high school, Kuehl added. In December 2008, MLC promised then-Superintendent Paula Vincent, and the board, they would be able to hold graduation in the brand-new gymnasium in May 2009. The promise was kept as 127 students embarked on their post-high school lives on May 24, 2009.
Work is anticipated to begin in March or April, with the new rooms ready to go for the 2022-2023 school year. The addition is expected to increase the high school’s capacity to 1,200.
Kuehl also reported on the district’s official certified enrollment in the wake of “count day” on Oct. 1. While RSP & Associates, the district’s enrollment growth tracker and advisor, had forecast nearly 200 new students for the 2020-2021 academic year, CCA gained 135. The count is not only functional in terms of space needs, but also due to state funding being allocated based on the number of students in a district.
“When I looked at the numbers from our AEA (Grant Wood Area Education Agency), I am very thankful for where we’re at, for sure. (There are) A lot of declining enrollments,” Kuehl said. An increase in homeschooling as a response to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic was among the likely reasons for the decline.
The board also discussed moving money with Tim Oswald, a managing director for Piper Sandler (formerly Piper Jaffrey & Co.), the district’s financial advisor. Oswald presented what he called “opportunities and not obligations” regarding a pair of outstanding bonds, and the potential to save money through refinancing them in a more favorable interest rate market.
Currently, CCA has bonds outstanding from sales in 2012 (general obligation bond, which had been refinanced, and dates back to construction of the high school) and 2018 (SAVE funds paid off with sales tax revenue, which had been refinanced and originated with building of the football stadium at the high school).
Interest rates, Oswald noted, continue to decrease. The 2012 bond, for example currently has an interest rate of 1.7 percent, an amount Oswald said he “never dreamed” he’d be talking about. “If we were to sell that issue today, it would have an average interest rate of 0.9 percent.”
Oswald projected savings of around $500,000 and $100,000 through refinancing of the bonds. Board consensus was to have Oswald proceed.