Brazil resident Leo L. Southworth filed a petition remonstrance request against the Clay Community School Corporation and proposed building project Monday with 166 signatures from community members.
In an e-mail to Superintendent Dan Schroeder and building principals dated Feb. 27, Southworth explained he was filing the petition because the cost of renovating East Side Elementary School and Meridian Elementary School is more than combining the schools and building an entirely new building.
He also asked the corporation in the e-mail to, "justify (its) expenditures with the law, with recommendations from the government, and with recommendations from organizations devoted to education."
"I think Leo's been up front all along, so it's not a surprise," Schroeder said about the request.
The $26 million building project was unanimously approved by the board at the Feb. 18 1028 preliminary determination hearing.
The project would update security features at all buildings and renovate seven elementary school buildings, including additional space at three buildings.
According to Jeff Qualkinbush, attorney from Barnes and Thornburg, Indianapolis, the request for a remonstrance sets a new timeline for the project, and possibly new costs.
First, the county election office and auditor have 35 business days to verify that all signatures on the request are from registered voters or property owners within the corporation.
Then, a report is made to the school board. The board must make sure all legal procedures have been followed in the request and, if everything is in order, make the decision to withdraw the project proposal or continue with a petition drive.
If the board withdraws the project, they must wait one year from the date of withdrawal to hold another preliminary determination hearing.
If the board moves forward, a new 60-day period will begin, with the first 28 days as a holding period.
Beginning day 29, petition forms would be available in the county election office, and from days 30-60, signatures from registered voters and property owners would be collected either for or against the project.
The election office and auditor would then have another 45 days for the validation process and then the board would recheck the legal procedures.
If those against the project receive more signatures, the project stalls and no other projects can be determined for a year after the date the board receives the county's report.
If those for the project receive more signatures, the project moves forward.
What does this new timeline mean for the project?
In order for the board to be able to include the levy on 2009 taxes, the bonds for the projects must be sold before the end of 2008.
This means, if all available time is used to verify signatures, the corporation would have from the second or third week of July until the end of the year to design the project, take construction bids and sell bonds.
According to Qualkinbush, this is "almost impossible."
That means if bonds are not sold until 2009, the capitalized interest from the year 2009 must be paid with money from the bond.
Qualkinbush estimated $800,000-$1 million would need to be appropriated out of the bonded money to pay the interest.
"It's very disappointing he's gone down this road, because it makes for a very inefficient project when paying for capital interest," Qualkinbush said.
The project would need to be cut back to be able to pay for the interest. Architects and the school board would make the decision as to what would not be done.
Southworth, who was unavailable for comment, has also filed a petition with the Department of Local Government Financing (DLGF) for a field hearing, based on its limit for spending by square foot on newly constructed elementary school buildings.
According to Qualkinbush, Southworth did not accurately figure the cost per square foot in terms of the DLGF limitations.
The limitations are set for "hard" construction costs, such as the materials, labor, general conditions like trash removal, construction management and construction contingency.
Qualkinbush said Southworth also figured in the 30 percent increase for "soft" costs, like inflation, into his calculations, which the DLGF does not take into account when looking into square foot price limitations.
No date has been set for the field hearing, as it depends on the results of the petition remonstrance.