A group of parents, city council members and staff formed a capital improvement bond task force a few months ago, and recently they shared their prioritized list of projects that they believe should be included in a possible bond referendum in addition to a second sheet of ice and the possibility of additional classrooms built onto Albertville Primary and the high school.
Most of the committee’s top priorities related to student safety or energy efficiency. They gave the highest priority rating to creating secure entrances at the high school, Middle School East, Albertville Primary and the community education building. The first three schools could have secure entrances built for under $350,000 for all three, but the Community Education’s secure entrance would be more involved and would require a small addition onto the northwest entrance to the building so the office could be located right at the entrance and office staff could buzz visitors in as they do at the other district buildings. The estimated cost this secure entrance is just over $900,000.
“There are currently many Community Ed. entrances that are not monitored during times when students are in the building, raising safety and security concerns,” said the district’s new superintendent, Dr. Ann-Marie Foucault.
For energy efficiency, the committee gave their highest priority ranking to three projects: to install LED lights in all rooms district-wide, purchase an off-season boiler for the Community Ed. Center and generators for five buildings in the district. These generators would allow the school district to take advantage of a rate savings program through Xcel Energy. Users who have the capacity to have their electricity interrupted during peak periods receive a discounted rate, and generators at the schools would kick in to provide electricity during those peak periods. The district said they expect to save around $200,000 per year in electricity costs with this program.
The committee also put $450,000 of pool renovations at Middle School East at their highest priority ranking, which Foucault said are must-do repairs from a health and safety standpoint. One other top-rated athletic repair was new tennis courts at the high school and an equipment storage space.
The only other top-rated project is a technology expenditure of $2.4 million, which would give the technology department $823,000 per year for the next three years to replace aging technology. The committee agreed that technology spending should come out of general education dollars or as part of a levy, rather than out of a bond. However, the committee proposed giving the technology department three years of replacement funds to allow the school board time to create a long-term plan for funding technology through reoccurring revenue.
“We’re not talking about substantial upgrades; we’re not talking about 1:1 device initiatives or anything like that,” said board member Jeff Lindquist, who participated in the committee. “We’re talking about maintaining what we have.”
All together, these top-rated priorities have an estimated cost of $14,378,000. This figure includes the latest ice arena expansion estimates, which have come in at $8.5 million. This figure does not include the possible classroom additions at Albertville Primary and the high school.
There were many items on the list that did not receive the highest priority rating and a few that the committee did not rate. The school board spent the most time discussing three non-rated athletic projects: a new sports stadium at the high school with a cost of $5 million, an artificial turf field at the high school for $1.4 million, and $1.8 million for a dome, equipment and facilities of bathrooms, concessions, storage and a pressbox if the school board opted to make the turf field a dome facility. The dome facility is highly favored by those who run youth sports leagues such as soccer, who said the dome facility could be rented out to surrounding areas to bring in additional revenue.
The school board said they would be interested to hear how the task force would rank these three unrated athletic projects. The board reached consensus that they might be willing to increase the potential bond referendum’s total to include one or more of these athletic facility items.
The bond referendum task force will be back in front of the school board at their July 18 meeting to discuss their final recommendations, athletic and otherwise. The board will then hold a public meeting August 8 to solicit feedback and input on the task force’s recommendations. They must make a decision on whether to approve holding a special election for the bond referendum. If approved by the school board, the bond election would take place February 7, 2017.