Several months ago I wrote a letter concerning the need to update some parts of the facilities at Booth Middle School. The response I received was that it would be prudent for the board to explore “all options” concerning the school. The school currently meets all state standards for use as a middle school. Booth could be more efficient with a better gymnasium, lunchroom, and fine arts space.
Options to meet the desire to upgrade these facilities have morphed into the possibility of spending $40 million to $50 million for a new school. The current appraisal value of Booth is about $12 million and its replacement cost will be at least $40-million-plus. So this option will cost the taxpayers of the county an additional $28 million.
It is difficult to conclude that the school board is meeting its fiduciary responsibility by considering this option.
In recent years, the taxpayers in Fayette County have been generous to the school district by approving E-SPLOST funds and allowing the board to maintain about a 20-mill levy in support of students. The board needs to show its appreciation by using these funds wisely. Taxpayers will close their pocketbooks if they perceive that money is being wasted.
The most prudent option is to upgrade and transform the current Booth facility. The reasons this is the best option are:
1. The latest enrollment projections for the next ten years do not support adding to already existing EXCESS capacity.
2. The latest enrollment projections appear to suggest adding to existing facilities, not building new ones.
3. Redistricting the student population into existing excess space reduces the need to build new facilities.
4. What happens to facility needs at other schools when millions are poured into a facility that is not needed? For example, Whitewater High School has been using trailers for years. Where will that school be on the list?
I support the need to provide adequate facilities for the education of students. Also, as a former board member, I am a strong believer in being financially responsible for the expenditure of all tax dollars. Building a new Booth Middle School does not meet that fiduciary test.
[Key is a former multi-term member and chair of the Fayette County Board of Education.]