OXFORD — The Oxford Hills School District Board of Directors will decide next month if it will take advantage of more than $1 million in state money to address life, health and safety issues in school buildings.
Of the $11.1 million approved from the 2013 Maine School Revolving Renovation Fund, about $1.5 million has been approved for 13 projects in the Oxford Hills School District.
Oxford Hills Middle School has been approved for $220,000 to address indoor air quality issues and $267,950 to address handicap accessibility issues.
The Agnes Gray Elementary School in West Paris received $801,005 to address handicap accessibility issues, such as the size of elevators.
The funding priority list was issued in November, but Superintendent Rick Colpitts said the board will not decide until a meeting in March whether to accept some, all or none of the funding.
The state contributes 50 percent of the money with no requirement to pay it back. The other 50 percent is funded through the school district at no interest.
For example, of the $487,950 approved at the middle school, Colpitts said the state would forgive $231,191; the district would pay the remaining $256,795.
It is expected that the Board of Directors will wait to hear upcoming recommendations from the Operations Committee about the future of the middle school before deciding whether to accept or reject that funding.
If the board decides to go ahead with any or all of the projects, it will inform the state of their intention to use the money. The projects will not affect the school budget until fiscal year 2015, which begins July 1, 2014, Colpitts said.
“The funds are usually bonded over a 10-year period,” Colpitts said. “If the board elects to pursue the funding, taxpayers would need to approve the bond at the June referendum.”
Any projects approved would not impact the fiscal year 2014 budget year, because the first payments on a bond would not be made until fiscal year 2015, which begins July 1, 2014.
“It's kind of a hard thing to turn down, but we're very careful about how we spend money,” Colpitts said.
The School Revolving Renovation Fund was created by the Maine Legislature in 1998. It is administered by the Department of Education and is funded through the Maine Municipal Bond Bank.
The fund addresses top-priority projects involving health, safety and compliance issues, including roof structural upgrades, improvements to indoor air quality, compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act and hazardous material abatement or removal.
Other approved Oxford Hills School District projects include$148,083 to address ADA issues at the Oxford Elementary School Annex and $2,630 each for fire alarm upgrades at the Oxford, Harrison, Rowe and Waterford elementary schools and the Oxford Hills Comprehensive High School. Colpitts said he believed the fire alarm upgrades involved switching the alarms to digital capability.
Several projects at the Mildred Fox School in Paris, which is being leased to a private school, were considered ineligible for funding.
Colpitts stressed that all 12 school buildings are considered safe by the state. The projects would simply bring the issues up to current building code.
“There are no significant life safety issues,” he said of the buildings.