Wednesday, October 07, 2009

Approval of $50 Million Springfield Public School Initiative does not Guarantee Federal Stimulus Funds

Last night, I read with interest Brian Brown's article, "Pay longer, build now," regarding the $50 million bond initiative the Springfield Public School Board seeks the tax-payer to approve in the upcoming November election. The article can be found in the October 7, issue of the "Community Free Press (CFP)."

In the column, Brown wrote, "The $50 million bond issue will utilize $5 million to $7 million in federal stimulus money to fund a number of construction and air-conditioning projects in the district."

You see, what was unclear in Brown's article in CFP, was whether the federal stimulus money had been applied for and is guaranteed if the voters approve an extension of the previously, voter-approved tax levy.

Brown pointed out in the article that voter approval of the November bond initiative will extend the 2006 debt-service levy by four years, or until 2030. The debt-service levy, otherwise, is anticipated to be paid off in 2026.

Superintendent of Springfield R-12, Norm Ridder told Brown for the article in CFP, "The community has to pass the bond initiative for us to get the stimulus money." Ridder also indicated the board hadn't really planned to seek a bond initiative in 2009, "The board was not going to go for any kind of initiative this year, but then there was a stimulus package that came forward from the federal government."

Having just written an opinion piece at "JackeHammer," in response to Springfield School Board president Gerry Lee's recent "Voice of the Day" column in the "Springfield News-Leader," and having been the recipient of a response to that opinion piece, in the comment section of that entry, by Springfield Public Schools Community Relations Manager Teresa Bledsoe, I decided to call her with some questions.

I inquired as to whether the SPS Board, or its representative(s), had applied for federal stimulus money related to the bond initiative which will be on the ballot in November.

"We have to approve a bond issue before we can apply," Bledsoe said.

According to Bledsoe, there were $149 million in federal stimulus funds available in the Qualified School Construction Bond Program in 2009 and another $141 million will be available in 2010.

SPS does not qualify for application for those federal funds unless a bond initiative is passed within a certain time frame. Existing bond initiatives do not qualify Springfield to apply for the stimulus funds held in the Qualified School Construction Bond Program.

When asked if there was any guarantee that SPS would be awarded the $5 - $7 million Brown's article claims the bond issue will utilize, Bledsoe referred me to the confidence of the SPS Board's financial advisor George K. Baum.

"He feels fairly confident that we would receive at least $5 million," Bledsoe said.


1 comment:

BBrown said...

Hey, I think it's cool you followed up on the story. Ridder had said they had to get the bond issue passed to get the federal money, and he said the bond was designed to utilize available federal funds. Nothing in that says the stimulus money is guaranteed, so maybe I should have had some better follow-up questions and I could have made it clear that money wasn't guaranteed. I guess I assumed that if the bond was passed, the ARRA funds would be there. Heck, even the ballot language says the $50 million would include qualified ARRA construction bonds. I was focused on understanding the debt service levy vs. the operating levy. Not to mention I wanted to know why the move to KSPR was being made. Anyhow, I'm glad you followed up. Good job.