The Pryor Times

September 29, 2013

Letter to the Editor: Chouteau bond project

PRYOR, OK — Dear Editor,

On Oct. 8, the Chouteau-Mazie district aims to put their schools “back on the map” with a bond proposition totaling $8,595,000 in building bonds.

School funding in Oklahoma is unique in many aspects. Most districts have three main funding sources: General, Building and Child Nutrition. The General and Building funds are used to supply the funding for all basic expenses like paying bills, payroll, and maintenance needs of the district. Child Nutrition funds are specific and used for breakfast and lunch programs.  

This year, the Chouteau-Mazie school district has an auditor approved working budget of eight million dollars in the General Fund.  This year approximately 73 percent of that fund is payroll. For a district our size, that percentage is in the desirable range of between 72 to 80 percent.   Our building fund this year is approximately $200,000 dollars.

When you study these funding sources, you quickly realize that these district funding sources do not build new schools or even supply enough revenue for major renovations. The state of Oklahoma has a structure to allow local communities to decide what type of buildings they want to send their children to for school. The financial structure is school bonds. That is why school buildings look so different across our state. Some communities decide to pass school bonds and build attractive, modern and functional schools for their children; other communities are content with portable buildings that become permanent structures on their campuses and or continue to use antiquated structures that were built as far back at the 1930s.

The Chouteau-Mazie School district mill rate (tax rate) is among the lowest if not the lowest in the county. That fact helps to explain why our district facilities are in the current shape they are. There has been no school bond money for new construction or major renovation since the Early Childhood Center was built nearly a decade ago.

The school board and I realize this Oct. 8 bond vote is a big step for our community members, but we believe it’s the right step to take at this time. With growing student enrollment, the district’s current facilities lack the space to adequately contain the student body. Meanwhile, surrounding districts are making school improvements and expansions. On Oct. 8, this community gets to vote; to give their voice on what type of school facilities they want to send their children to.  

To learn more about the Chouteau-Mazie Public Schools bond issue, you can watch the video on the homepage of the district’s website:

Kenny Mason

Chouteau School Superintendent