Board Votes 7-0 To Move Ahead With SMS Pool Renovation

Board Votes 7-0 To Move Ahead With SMS Pool Renovation

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After protests from the public on the potential rise in property taxes, the Salem School Board of Trustees abandoned the list of projects that staff, teachers and administration wanted to see move forward earlier this year and settled on the renovation of the Salem Middle School pool which was built in 1976. 

The board voted 7-0 to move forward with this project. 

They further pared the project down from about $4 million to $3.18 million – just to repair the pool, include new decking, fixing drain lines and installing new pumps and hardware. 

An earlier version that would include seating for about 100 spectators and open up the area above where others sit to watch swim meets; and bring the shallow end of the pool up to IHSAA standards so the starting blocks could be moved to the west end of the pool – would have cost more, but the board chose to keep costs low in order to appease taxpayers. 

Architect John Hawkins outlined the problems with the pool and offered various proposals to fix them. Concerned taxpayers balked at the original plan, however, have now come to support repairs to the pool.

The current version of the project will take about 18 months in construction and cost taxpayers only approximately 83 cents per year on a $99,500 home (which was the median price in the Salem School District). This would cost less than $10 a year. 

A $200,000 home assessed at $97,750 would face an increase of about $29.91 per year. 

Farmers would pay about 49 cents per acre for farm land. For example, if a farmer owned 800 acres in the school district, they would pay an additional $392 per year. 

A $100,000 business or rental property in the district, would pay $30.60 extra per year. 

Looking at the shortfall caused by a slight raise in taxes, Umbaugh and Associates noted that Washington County Government would lose about $20,000 in income due to the circuit breaker. 

The City of Salem would lose approximately $28,000 in tax money. 

The Salem Public Library would lose approximately $3000 in tax revenue. 

The biggest loser would be the school corporation itself, which would face an estimated shortfall of $60,000 due to the project. 

Last week, three members of board met with some of the “concerned” citizens group to tour the SMS Pool. Dan Mullins, JD Wade Swift, Scotty Martin and Kent Payne explained the issues with the pool. 

“We felt it was a great idea for some of these people to see what we’ve been dealing with up close,” said Board President Becky White. “We opened up the pool for a tour and we had about 15 people show up from the citizens group. I think 99 percent of them felt the project was warranted and needed. The school board in the mid-70s felt having a swimming pool was important to this community and we can either fill it in or repair it and keep it going for future generations to learn to swim and take part in water safety. I for one thing it’s important and want to keep it going.” 

White said Mullins noted the other night during the tour that there had been only one accidental drowning in the area since the pool was opened in 1976. “Every student that goes through the middle school has to take three years of swimming and has to learn to swim before moving on to the high school,” said White. “This is something we can’t put a price tag on.”