Approval of planning and design funding requests for Buckingham Elementary School and design funding requests for the Snow Hill Middle/Cedar Chapel Special schools roof placement project was granted last week by the Worcester County Commissioners in its review of Worcester County Public School’s FY24 Capital Improvement Plan proposal.
The Buckingham Elementary requests — listed by the school system as the top priority — total about $1.5 million for FY24 and, if estimates hold, over the next five fiscal years could total about $17.2 million.
The project is categorized as a replacement.
The funding request for Snow Hill Middle/Cedar Chapel Special schools totals $59,500. Estimates could see the project up for another estimated $1.9 million in FY25.
“As you know, the CIP is a forward-thinking and (forward-looking) document and we have identified additional future projects including roof replacement projects at … Pocomoke Elementary School and Worcester Technical High School,” Superintendent of Schools Lou Taylor told the Commissioners.
He added that the proposal includes future renovations, additions and replacement school projects for Buckingham Elementary and Snow Hill Elementary schools.
Commissioner Jim Bunting asked if the district would approach Buckingham’s replacement as it did the replacement of Showell Elementary School in Ocean Pines.
“Absolutely,” Taylor responded. “I think that was one of the most successful planning processes we ever had for putting a school together. We plan on putting a committee together which will involve some of the commissioners … We will follow that same process.”
Bunting said he’d like to serve on that committee.
Commissioner Chip Bertino asked when an in-progress feasibility study on Buckingham Elementary would finish, to which Taylor replied that it would be completed by December and in front of the commissioners in March.
Commissioner Joe Mitrecic asked about the population of Stephen Decatur High School, which sits at 1,515 students currently, and the school’s future capability to accommodate its student body.
Taylor said it’s handling its load fine right now, but that “if it goes over 1,600 (in the future), we may have some thinking to do.”
In another budget discussion, the commissioners approved the consolidated public improvement bond 2022 series resolution.
The resolution totals about $28.63 million, breaking down to $10.02 million for the Stephen Decatur Middle School addition project, $10.96 million for phase two of the county jail improvement project, $3.05 million for a public safety logical storage facility and $4.6 million for the Ocean Pines service area belt filter press.
Bertino asked county Finance Officer Phil Thompson, who gave the presentation, what the interest rate might be.
“My guess is 4-and-a-half (percent) based on current market conditions,” Thompson said.
The previous bond had a rate of 2.32 percent, Thompson said, nearly half the current projection.
“It’s a dramatically different environment in the last nine months,” he said. “Currently, you’re looking at a prime upwards of 7 percent. Mortgages are hovering in the 6.5 to 7 (percent range). We’re usually somewhere in the two-thirds range with the tax exemption issue.”