Beyond the names and faces of the candidates running in this year’s mid-term elections, voters in the Elk River and Buffalo school districts will be weighing in on multi-million-dollar bond issues that would result in both districtwide changes – including new buildings – as well as higher tax levies.
BHM Schools – One question, millions of dollars in upgrades
In Buffalo, the BHM School District is asking voters one question – to approve a $33 million bond issue to “to provide funds for safety and security improvements and upgrades to district sites and facilities; the completion of various deferred maintenance projects; the acquisition and installation of technology and the upgrading of technology infrastructure; and the acquisition and betterment of school sites and facilities, including the construction of additions to and the remodeling, repair, renovation, upgrading and equipping of various district facilities and activity venues.”
According to information released by the district, the money would be spent over the next five years. Improvements would include:
Safety and Security
Improve entrances at Discovery, Hanover and Tatanka Elementary Schools; security cameras district-wide; and intercom system upgrades at Northwinds Elementary and the high school.
Updates include district-wide infrastructure improvements, and hardware and software upgrades.
This includes projects such as roof replacements (seven out of nine buildings); HVAC (heating, ventilation and air conditioning) upgrades; parking lot and sidewalk repairs and replacements; floor, window and door upgrades; outdoor equipment replacement; mechanical system upgrades; and HVAC and water filtration replacement at the middle school pool.
More classroom space would be added at Tatanka Elementary and the high school.
Updates include improvements to the middle school ball fields, and field additions and improvements at the high school.
The district offers complete breakdowns of all proposed improvements at each school building on its website, complete with drawings of proposed building changes and field improvements for athletics and other activities.
If the 2014 BHM bond referendum passes, the annual tax impact on an average $200,000 home would be an estimated increase of $88 per year ($7.33 per month). The district offers more information on tax increase calculations here for residents.
Elk River School District – A new home for Otsego students
Elk River School District residents will be asked a pair of questions to raise local revenue for the purpose of funding multiple changes throughout the district in this year’s election, including the construction of a new school in Otsego.
Question 1 covers the increase in the district’s levy funding, something Minnesota schools are accustomed to doing every 10 years. Districts can, and do, however, ask local taxpayers for increases within that decade, should the need for additional local funding arise. This year, the question reads: “The board of Independent School District No. 728 (Elk River Area Schools) has proposed to increase its general education revenue by $409.67 per pupil. The proposed referendum revenue authorization would be applicable for ten years unless otherwise revoked or reduced as provided by law. Shall the increase in the revenue proposed by the board of Independent School District No. 728 be approved?”
Question 2 covers a massive, districtwide bonding issue that would include construction and improvements at several of the district’s schools, as well as the new construction of an Otsego elementary school on the city’s southwest side.
It reads: “If School District Question 1 is approved, shall the board of Independent School District No. 728 (Elk River Area Schools) also be authorized to issue its general obligation school building bonds in an amount not to exceed $98,030,000 to provide funds for the acquisition and betterment of school sites and facilities, including the construction and equipping of a classroom addition to the Rogers High School facility; the construction and equipping of a new E-8 school facility in Otsego; the construction and equipping of classrooms and gym space at Elk River High School; the construction and equipping of classrooms at Zimmerman Middle/High School; the construction and equipping of auditorium additions to the Rogers and Zimmerman High School facilities; the construction and equipping of early childhood additions to one elementary school in Rogers and one elementary school in Zimmerman; the construction and installation of safety and security improvements and upgrades to various district facilities; and the removal of portable classrooms and replacement with permanent structures?”
District 728 said Question 2 is contingent on the passage of Question 1 (the levy increase) and bonds would not be issued without that contingency. However, the district warns in literature it distributed throughout Rogers, Elk River, Zimmerman and Otsego that failure to pass the two questions will result in increased crowding at Rogers and Otsego schools (Otsego Elementary, it states, is at capacity) and postpone “much needed” improvements to buildings around the district, as outlined in the two questions.
The average home – about $250,000 in the district, according to advisors – would see a $43 increase in annual taxes to cover the cost of both questions on the ballot.
Commercial, industrial and apartment building taxes actually would go down. According to ISD 728’s financial advisor, Ehlers and Associates, the relatively low additional tax impact on homes and tax reductions on commercial, industrial and apartment properties is the result of several factors, including the fact that local taxpayers won’t be paying the bonds alone; the state of Minnesota will be paying about 41 cents on each dollar of bonding.