The Southwest Licking school board on Jan. 26 approved borrowing up to $3.6 million in tax-anticipation notes to begin construction of three to four permanent classrooms at Kirkersville Elementary School and to authorize the superintendent and treasurer to explore purchasing two modular classrooms.

The Southwest Licking school board on Jan. 26 approved borrowing up to $3.6 million in tax-anticipation notes to begin construction of three to four permanent classrooms at Kirkersville Elementary School and to authorize the superintendent and treasurer to explore purchasing two modular classrooms.

The modulars would have two classrooms each and be used at the elementary school during construction. Depending upon need, the modular classrooms could stay at Kirkersville after construction is complete, or they may be moved to another district building.

The board voted 5-0 at the special meeting to approve the tax-anticipation notes that allow the district to immediately use the revenue that the permanent-improvements levy eventually will generate.

However, board member Dave Engel voted against authorizing the superintendent and treasurer to explore purchasing the two modular classrooms. The other four members voted in favor.

"I have an innate bias against modulars," said Engel, who said it is a personal view and wouldn't elaborate further.

However, he said, the point is moot because the rest of the board approved the measure.

"Now our job is to move forward with exploring the purchase," he said.

Treasurer Richard Jones said the new permanent classrooms are estimated to cost roughly $2 million. Three new classrooms definitely will be built; a fourth will be added, if space allows.

While no one likes to incur debt, Jones said, it made solid financial sense to do so this time.

"It's cheap," he said of the tax-anticipation notes' unusually low 2-percent interest rate currently available.

"It makes more sense to borrow the money now," he said, because rising construction costs for the classrooms will far outpace the 2-percent interest rate.

The longer the district waits to build the classrooms, the more it will spend, and Kirkersville Elementary School has an immediate need for the classrooms. Jones said that ideally, construction should start by early summer.

Jones said the district is budgeting $150,000 for the modulars. He said at least one estimate for used modulars is slightly less than that.

He expects the used modulars to be 4 years old, with a useful remaining life of 10 to 15 years. Once the modulars are purchased, the district likely will keep using them as long as they're functional, he said.

"We're talking about refurbished modulars," said Superintendent Forest Yocum.

Yocum said he knows of a district that paid $114,000 for one new modular with two classrooms.

He said he also looked at leasing two modulars at $1,000 per month per unit for a total of $24,000 per year.

"I don't think that's a really good investment unless you're only planning to use them two or three years," he said.

"You'll still have to pay all these things like plumbing, foundation, delivery, et cetera, then pay the lease," said board vice president Cindy Zaino. "You probably wouldn't be getting your money's worth."

Yocum said the district plans to keep the modulars a long time, and he believes it makes more sense to purchase them.

In other news from the special board meeting, the district hired fourth-grade teacher Suzanne Sanders for Pataskala Elementary School.

She will teach students transferred from classes that are over a 26-student limit, as well as fourth-graders who move into the district.

She also will have fourth-graders who live near Pataskala Elementary School but who are being bused to Kirkersville and Etna elementary schools.