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Rockwood Taxpayers Will Face April Ballot Issue

A $43.5 million bond measure was proposed at Thursday night's Rockwood School District board of education meeting. After two discussions, a $43.2 million bond issue was voted by directors to move forward.

Two underpinning goals anchored the presentations and discussions at Thursday's night board of education meeting regarding a proposed $43.5 million bond measure for the April 3 ballot:  maintaining safety and achievement.

What amount of money will it take to keep students, staff and visitors secure, and what amount of investment does Rockwood need to support the world-class education that has come to be expected for Rockwood students?

After two rounds of discussions, the board's directors arrived at the slightly adjusted price tag of $43.2 million as the immediate future total needed to execute mission-critical projects.

Greg Holthouse, a Rockwood citizen and chair of the 2012 Bond Issue committee, recommended the board move forward with the entire proposed $43.5 million package, . "It’s all there. We've followed a process that involved the right building stakeholders to determine each buildings' needs," he said.

"This list has the recommendations from the professionals who we entrust to run the schools every day, and it has the input from three different committees: finance, technology and bond issue committee."

Holthouse said bond committee members' decisions were guided by the goal of protecting the safety and welfare of students, staff, parents and visitors of Rockwood buildings, and also by desiring to protect the district's infrastructure investment—both bricks and mortar as well as technology.

Of the $43.5 million package, Holthouse said $9 million of it was devoted to the safety and welfare of students and faculty. "Many people don't know that not 100 percent of our buildings are sprinkled (equipped for sprinkling systems in case of fire). We've been accomplishing that incrementally over the years. This bond issue is another bite on that apple," he said.

"Fire alarms go hand-in-hand with the sprinkler systems, so that's why that amount is necessary."

He said another guiding principle for their suggestions was to ensure all Rockwood students have the opportunity to have similar experiences and access to technology, no matter their location.

He named the last guiding mission as the group's desire to keep developing best-in-class facilities. "Many of our gym floors are well over 20 years; some are 40 years old. They can only be refinished so many times," he said.

Additionally, he said Rockwood parking lots cover as much as, or more, pavement surface as the University of Missouri-Columbia. "That much pavement requires maintenance."

What's the Definition of Absolutely Essential Needs?

Board of director Matt Doell led a discussion at the 5 p.m. work session about a handful of areas in which he believed the proposed list of bond-related projects could be adjusted, bringing the recommended bond total down to $39 million at one point.

"Every item (on the proposed bond list) needs to be defendable and critical," said Doell. "We’ve all got Rockwood's best interest at heart, but in fairness to the public, we need to run through this all and see if the amount could be reduced."

Doell's targeted areas were:

  1. Item No. 19:  Was the $7.5 million desired for technology absolute? Doell referenced that at one point in prior months, a total of $7 million was suggested for technology. Rockwood's chief information officer Steve Beatty answered that the department's exact recommendation was never $7 million but that the numbers got rounded off in the early phases of the budgeting process.
  2. Item No. 9:  Just how bad is the playing field at Rockwood Summit High to justify $220,000 worth of improvements? Dennis Griffith, assistant superintendent of administrative services, said it is a multipurpose field with a slope and holes that cause safety hazards. Doell asked if the field is usable. Griffith said it was for practices, but not games.
  3. Item No. 10:  A big-ticket item within this $1,050,000 health and wellness project was $745,000 for a nurses's station at in Wildwood. Griffith said because the current nurse's station is in the middle of counseling space, they would have to move it and build new space for expansion, thereby using the former space for storage or offices. By not building out a new nurses station, this project's amount could be reduced by $200,000. Board president Janet Strate said there’s a need at LaSalle Springs due to the students being served but there is no where to go the way it’s designed.
  4. Item No. 12:  Doell asked what the end impact would be without this $3.5 million space expansion for early childhood, which covers children at age 3 through pre-kindergarten. The answer was that after capacity was reached, Rockwood would have to turn children away. Rockwood's Karen
    Hargadine, executive director of PreK–Elementary education, said a critical factor to consider is special needs' students and having enough space in the immediate areas of all students without having to bus students around throughout the district. She said not providing enough space for those who want to enroll would send the signal that Rockwood doesn't believe early childhood is important. Doell asked if growth is projected in that area. She said enrollment fluctuates year to year, but is growing. One "piece of the puzzle," is where early childhood classrooms are currently housed in elementary buildings, Hargadine said, but elementary administrators are going to need that space back for their own classes. Overload in one spot presents problems in another, she said.
  5. Item No. 13:  Doell said while he understood the roles of libraries have evolved, he wondered if the $500,000 for two library renovations was essential. Griffith said with libraries being the hub of learning in every school, they had envisioned making these better learning environments like the library recently done at . He said if the bond issue doesn’t pass, they’d get through it, but reminded it was a renovation of space, not a build-out. 
  6. Items Nos. 17 and 18:  Doell said it stood to reason that if individual projects on the list were to be adjusted, then the administrative overhead and project management costs also could be reduced proportionately.

Board directors went through each of these line items again at the 7 p.m. meeting. Consensus was reached to save money within the health and wellness project by accomplishing the new nurses' station at LaSalle Springs but by not renovating the vacated space. Another $20,700 in administrative costs were then shaved off the total.

The vote to put forth a $43.2 million bond measure was unanimous. It will be called Proposition R.

Don P January 27, 2012 at 01:13 AM
R. Woodson you are probably right, seems to me a good reason to ask first to candidates, what is your motivation for running? (without saying it's about the kid's) I just hope we are not looking at candidates who are politically motivated to run...Had that last year not looking for it this year....
M. Baker January 27, 2012 at 01:45 AM
Regarding the bloated bureaucracy of central services mentioned above. I decided to check for myself instead of just believing those who claim to want to "inform and educate" with general statements. I checked the administration organization chart (rockwood site under community/administration) and decided to start with Human Resources. It appears they have 14 staff members, not including the one health person who reports to HR. Then I checked the number of employees (on the rockwood site aboutus/district facts page). It states Total Employees: 3,379 (not including seasonal employees). Then I checked the web (google search) for HR staff to employee ratios - there are many resources, but in a nutshell, many companies use an average of 1 HR person for every 100 employees. Other sources show an average ratio for a company with about 3500 employee would be between .5 and .7 The ratio is calculated by dividing the number of HR staff by the total employees and multiplying times 100. So in looking at rockwood, 14/3400 X 100 = .41 or if you use the 1:100 ratio, there would be about 34 HR staff members serving 3400 employees. Either way you calculate it, rockwood is well below industry averages for HR staff to employees (and the calc. included just regular employees, not seasonal). So bottom line - rockwood seems to be providing a very efficient HR function based on industry standards. Shall we go to the next "overstaffed" rockwood central services department?
R. Woodson January 27, 2012 at 02:04 AM
@ Don P. Yes, agree that a person must have some motivation or agenda to run for the office. Candidate forums offer an opportunity to ask questions. Like you, I hope the motives are for the good of the kids and community as opposed to partisan retribution.
D. Howard January 28, 2012 at 04:15 PM
M. Baker, Thank you for the data and analysis. It is helpful to see factual information that supports (or refutes) broad-brush statements.
DAE February 10, 2012 at 04:20 AM
On the comment of 1 hr person per 100 employees, I work in benefits and focus on groups over 100 employees and I will tell you in the state of Missouri, that ratio is not even close to that stat. Many companies are having to move hr functions to the accounting area or other operational departments. In a perfect economy, maybe that ratio is realistic, but not in the current economy. Google is great for stats, but do not always accurately reflect what is happening in the real world.

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