Saint Michael-Albertville schools celebrated their final bond project groundbreaking last week, gathering at the ice arena to commemorate the beginning of its expansion. The STMA High School had its groundbreaking last month for the school expansion and construction of the all-purpose athletic facility, and construction on Albertville Primary’s eight-classroom expansion began just after the beginning of the school year. Some bond projects are already complete, such as installing secure entrances at all the schools who needed it as well as the Middle School East pool renovations. Other projects will begin next spring and others are ongoing, such as technology improvements and energy-efficient lighting.
Money is getting tight, however, due to a higher than estimated bid for the ice arena expansion. Architects Rego + Youngquist estimated the second sheet of ice would cost $9.2 million, but the lowest bidder came in at $9,776,407.
To make up for the higher bid, on Oct. 30 the school board voted to take $594,770 from the district’s general fund balance. $44,770 of that money will go directly to funding the bond projects, which is the dollar figure the district is actually short for the bond projects. Other projects came in under budget, which mostly offset the higher arena bid. The remaining $550,000 taken from the general fund will be reserved for contingency.
Superintendent Dr. Ann-Marie Foucault said school district policy 714 states that the district must maintain at least 1.5 months of operating expenses in reserve in the fund balance. This number works out to be approximately $6 million, but she said the district estimates it has nearly double that, close to $13 million, in the reserve fund.
Ryan Breitbach of Breitbach Construction, the district’s construction management contractor, said that about $150,000 of that overage could be attributed to bidding the project as a prevailing wage project. Prevailing wage is described by Minnesota’s Department of Labor and Industry as ‘the minimum hourly wage employers must pay certain workers who work on construction projects where state dollars are used to fund the construction.’
It seems this definition would mean that all the district’s bond projects would require prevailing wage, but Foucault explained it doesn’t due to due to a 1995 court ruling which determined that debt service equalization aid payments do not bear a direct relationship to a particular construction project, and therefore are not bound by the Prevailing Wage Act. However, the $250,000 Mighty Ducks grant that STMA won for the expanded ice arena did stipulate that the job must be done using prevailing wage. Breitbach said it still made sense to utilize the Mighty Ducks grant money since the grant award amount was greater than the extra money they paid for prevailing wage.
For comparison, Foucault said the Monticello school district used all prevailing wage bids for their recent bond, while Buffalo did not specify the need for prevailing wage in any bids for their recent bond. However, Breitbach said that the large majority of the contractors bidding for the jobs use the prevailing wage scale on their own accord.
More decisions lie ahead at Monday evening’s school board meeting, when the board will consider whether to add a storage shed onto the all-purpose athletic facility project. Foucault said the all-purpose facility is currently under budget, but would be slightly over budget once contingency dollars are added in and possibly the storage shed, if it receives board approval.