KUSH Radio

Published on: 04/01/2012

School Bond 2012, Big Price Tag - Big Impact

Molly Payne


Photo by Donna Judd

Superintendent Koln Knight speaking to Cushing Lions Club.
(Cushing, Okla.)  Cushing Public School Bond 2012 may come with a big price tag - $41.5 million - but if voters say yes on Tuesday, April 3rd, it is expected make big impact in Cushing.  To pass, it must get at least 60 percent of the yes votes.

The bond will allow Cushing to build a state-of-the-art middle school facility, as well as much-needed  improvements to the high school campus such as updates to the auditorium, improvements to O'Dell Stadium and new metal roofs on all its buildings.  The bond will also bring improvements to Harmony School, renovations to the existing middle school and improved security for all campuses.

From Rotary Club, Lions Club, Board of Realtors, and the Cushing Chamber's Legislative Luncheon to the Donna & Molly Show, Cushing Public Schools Superintendent Koln Knight has been speaking at venues all over Cushing to inform and answer questions from the voting public.

"It's been a long time since Cushing built a new school," Knight said.  "And although we have tried to keep them well-maintained - all of our schools are dated.  We believe the new middle school will be a dynamic addition not only to the school system, but to the community."

The last school built in Cushing was the high school which was completed in 1976.  However, the most recent building project of any magnitude was the field house in 1997.  The 8-year project a was sold to voters at a higher millage (27 mills) than the proposed approximate 23 mills of the 2012 bond.  Ultimately the field house project came in at a lower rate of 23 mills.

Knight said it is very possible - perhaps even 'most likely' - the same will be true of the 2012 project. 

"I can't see into the future and the numbers from 2011 are not in yet," Knight said.  "But if you look around at all the building that has gone on in Cushing over the past year or so - you could assume the tax levy for the bonds could very well be lower."

Even if that isn't the case, Knight feels the time to get 'the best bang for the buck' is now.  "Everyone wants to know what the tanks mean to the schools," he said.  "A lot of people mistakenly assume we are 'rolling in money' because of them.  And while it is true they bring in additional money, but for each dollar they bring in , we lose a dollar of state aid.  Eventually - once we are no longer provided any money from the state - we could actually see more money from ad valorem.  However, the one thing the additional funds do for us is increase our bonding capacity."

Knight said the current bonding capacity of Cushing Public Schools is "tremendous" - especially compared to other school districts.

"We have a unique opportunity to take advantage of this tremendous bonding capacity at the same time interest rates are so very  low," Knight said.  "That's why the board decided to bring this to the public now."

Knight also pointed out that even with the "worst case scenario" of the estimated 23 mills tax levy, Cushing would still be at or below the tax levy of surrounding communities.

Tax Levy Comparison of Area School Systems:

Bristow - 23.62 mills

Drumright - 37.08 mills

Perkins-Tryon - 22.68 mills

Stillwater - 27.77 mills

So how would this affect your taxes?

For every $100 of property taxes that you paid in 2011-2012, you would pay an additional $23.93 per year in 2012-2013.  At this rate (23 mills), the cost would average out to $1.99 per month (per $100 of taxes).

And what would you get?

A brand new 145,000 sq. ft.state-of-the-art middle school facility with enough classrooms (and some room to grow) for 5th, 6th, 7th and 8th graders; two gymnasiums - one practice gym and one competition gym, a media center, cafetorium (combo cafeteria/auditorium), computer labs, band room, music room, science labs, drama room, art room, interior courtyard and a storm shelter, which could be opened as a public safe room.

Cushing High School will get new metal roofs on all its buildings and an archway of some sort to signify the entrance of the school.  "Visitors never know exactly where the entrance to the high school building is," Knight said.  "We will also make it more handicap accessible."

The auditorium will get a new sound system, along with a new stage and carpet.  HVAC updates will also be made throughout the school.

O'Dell Stadium will receive a facelift as well - including new turf and track resurfacing.  "The turf was controversial even during the board's discussions," Knight said.  "But when you consider all the facts, it is cost-effective.  At one time it was considered a luxury item, but today, the maintainance of a grass field is higher than turf.  Plus you eliminate the need for practice fields.  If you don't believe me - just Google it!"

Harmony School, which would house Kindergarten and 1st grade, will also receive updates - including new windows and lighting improvement.  The existing middle school, which will house 2nd, 3rd and 4th graders, will undergo needed renovations as well.  All campuses will get improved security.

Sunnyside would become the new facility for Pre-K.  Harrison, Deep Rock and Wilson schools could either be surplussed or considered for other use - such as an alternative school.

Currently Cushing has two bonds on the books - one will go off the books this summer and the other will be finished in two years.  If passed, the school bond will be a 10 year bond and the construction of the new middle school would take approximately two years.  Improvements to other schools would start this summer.

"Someone said, 'if we aren't moving forward, we are becoming stagnant'," Knight commented, "I want people coming to Cushing to know there is more to this town than just oil tanks."