Bond oversight committee to meet tonight

WICHITA — A committee charged with overseeing Wichita's $370 million bond issue will meet tonight for the first time since leaders voted to re-evaluate bond projects.

The bond oversight committee, which includes district employees and board member appointees, will meet at 6:30 p.m. in the North High School lecture hall, 1437 Rochester.

The meeting is open to the public.

Representatives of Schaefer Johnson Cox Frey Architecture, which helped the district draft its bond plan and is managing it, also are expected to attend.

The Wichita school board voted last month to "pause and study" the $370 million bond issue, which voters approved in 2008. Projects not currently under construction or contract are on hold while leaders re-examine each project and look for efficiencies, said Superintendent John Allison.

The move could alter or delay many long-awaited projects, including a new high school in southeast Wichita. The board has already bought land near the corner of 143rd East and Pawnee for a new Class 5A high school with a stadium. Crews broke ground on a $16 million K-8 school at the same site in December.

Other projects on hold include several major renovations, athletic facilities, storm shelters, science labs, cafeteria expansions and classroom additions.

Allison told board members Monday that $320 million in bonds already have been sold to take advantage of low interest rates or federal stimulus programs.

Only $177 million of those bonds have been spent or are "obligated for construction contracts," Allison said. About $143 million are sold but unencumbered, he said.

The final $50 million in bond funds have yet to be sold and could be "delayed indefinitely," Allison said.