Earlier this month, the St. Michael-Albertville school board dove into specifics of a potential bond referendum. At issue were how large of a dollar figure the board would support for the possible bond, and what improvements could be made with that money.
Hopes for an expanded ice arena planted the seed for this entire idea, but that’s hardly the only item that’s on the list at this point. Already, a lengthy list of other potential projects has emerged. Before laying out the options, superintendent Jim Behle stressed that all numbers are rough and that no commitments have been made to any project at this point. The major project ideas the school board and bond committee are considering include:
- $1.5-3 million: repairs and upgrades to existing athletic fields, courts and stadiums. Projects that could be included under this heading are tennis court repairs at Middle School West, pool repairs at Middle School East, additional seating for home football fans, athletic storage and a possible turf field at the high school, which would be used for lacrosse, lower level football games and as a practice field.
- $1.1-3.3 million: facility repairs and upgrades. Possible projects include HVAC systems, boilers, gym humidification systems, gym bleacher replacement at middle schools, generators and gym curtains. Behle said the bleacher replacement at the middle schools is becoming a must-do, no matter what happens with the bond. Another big piece facility project under consideration is a new lighting panel for the high school’s Performing Arts Center. The company who made the PAC’s current lighting panel is now defunct, and the district has no options to buy replacement parts besides salvaging parts from other school districts that are replacing that same system. Eventually this will no longer be an option, so Behle said this $85,000 project must be done at some point.
- $1.4 million for safety and security, including redesigning three schools’ entryways and setting up a swipe identification system for volunteers to beef up building security.
- $.5 million: parking lot overlays
- Other ideas include music equipment, possible fire resistant mats for gymnastics and wrestling due to new fire codes or to prepare for future technology needs.
In addition to all these ideas, there is the looming issue of a potential space shortage at the district’s kindergarten center, Albertville Primary. The introduction of free all-day kindergarten means the school is now close to their max capacity of 440 students. Next year’s kindergarten class is looking to be around 420 students. An expansion would add up to eight classrooms onto the backside of the school and could cost about $5 million or more. Additionally, the board discussed Governor Mark Dayton’s goal to provide universal pre-k for Minnesota’s 4-year olds, and where those students could be served. More information will be known about that proposal in May.
Superintendent Jim Behle also brought up the idea of expanding the high school by five classrooms to deal with the influx of large class sizes that will be moving in over the next several years, but board members had a unanimous distaste for that idea, saying the numbers show a drop in class sizes after this year’s fourth grade class and that they should take other measures to mitigate the upcoming larger classes.
The board gave this list of projects, minus the possible classroom additions, to the bond committee so they could refine and prioritize the possible project list. They opted to retain all classroom-related decisions themselves. The bond committee will begin meeting in May.
After going back and forth for some time, the board reached a consensus to use $18-20 million as a guide for the potential bond. The ice arena is estimated to cost somewhere between $6-8 million, though multiple board members expressed their expectation that the arena expansion leaders will keep costs down as much as possible so that other projects could also be funded.
The district’s financial firm, Ehlers, Inc., provided the district with some rough numbers on what a bond would cost a family with a $200,000 home. The potential tax impact ranges between $18 per year for a $12 million bond to $32 per year for a $21 million bond. This factors in that the state will be paying for about 50 percent of the bond through equalization aid.