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Posted: 08/20/14

RCS board examines options to improve facilities

Observer Staff Writer
      The Romeo Community Schools Board of Education wants to explore options with the community on how to repair its aging facilities.
       At a special meeting held Aug. 11, the Board of Education examined a number of options for dealing with the district's buildings, mainly on what to do with Romeo Middle School (RMS).
       Executive Director of Business Affairs David Massoglia said it would cost up to $15 million in order to bring RMS up to speed.
       Massoglia said adding to the problem is the fact that the district is spending beyond its revenue, with its current budget being overspent by $2.6 million. This would reduce the fund balance to less than $300,000.
       The board discussed taking RMS offline for a year or two to make repairs. Massoglia said it would have to be fully renovated before reopening, and would likely require a bond to do so.
       "It might be realistic to take it offline and then decide on what you're going to do with it," he said.
       Board President Ed Sosnoski said RMS is in "extremely bad" condition. With the athletic bond coming up this year and a sinking fund renewal in 2015, he said the district should ask the community what options seem like the best course of action.
       "We need to give them three or four options, not 20 to pick from," he said.
       He said nothing was set in stone, but the short-term plans boil down to closing RMS and renovating Croswell, while the long-term plans are to bond and create a high school campus on Jewell Road and convert Romeo High School to a middle school.
Bond options

       Options that include a bond proposal were the following:
       - Converting Powell or the Romeo Engineering and Technology Center into a high school and move the middle school to the current high school. This would save $600,000, but cost $64 million, or 2.5 mills for 30 years.
       - More than $100 million for a bond that would repair all buildings in the district.
       - Knock down RMS and build a new middle school in its place. This would cost $30 million.
       - Expanding Powell to fit grades 6-8. No cost was given for this proposal.
       Trustee Chris Young said he would want to wait to approach the community with a bond proposal until temporary and long-term plans were fleshed out.
       "Would the community like to see two locations, even if it means building a brand-new school?" he said.
No bond options

       Administrators provided fixes that didn't involve a bond, but all of them require the closure of RMS. They were:
       - Have Romeo High School house grades 8-12, Powell become grades 6 and 7 for a savings of $1 million a year.
       - Powell would become grades 7-8, Croswell become grade six.
       - Powell becomes grades 7-8, then redistrict the elementary schools to become grades K-6 and reopen Croswell.
       - Relocate the RMS population to Croswell and make Croswell a middle school. This would save $200,000.
       Massoglia said while these eliminate the structural problems, the district would face capacity issues with classrooms and busing, and staff at those buildings would be further burdened.
       Updating Croswell would cost up to $4 million that could be funded through the district's sinking fund.
       Vice President Chris Giancarli said he had a tough time with using sinking funds to renovate Croswell, as it's a millage that passed 55.5-44.5 percent in 2011.
       "We're really risking, I think, a lot of people going `I don't think we should renew the sinking fund if that is where the majority of the sinking fund will go," he said.
       He said the district should gauge where the community is at on the use of sinking funds and possibly a bond.
       Outside of facility issues, Massoglia said the district could close a building, increase class sizes, cut salaries, outsource various staff or cut programs to deal with its budget woes.
       "Some of them are harder to achieve than others, none of them are necessarily popular," he said.
       He said the area's population isn't expected to grow much in the next four years either, so additional revenue from students may not occur.

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