While the heat of August might make February seem far away, St. Michael-Albertville school board members are under tight deadlines to get decisions made about the potential February bond referendum.
Superintendent Dr. Ann-Marie Foucault told the board that a final decision must be made by mid-October in order to meet deadlines for submission to the state’s commissioner of education.
The eight-week process begins now. Board members will first hold a community input meeting on the issue, which takes place 7-8:30 p.m. Monday, Aug. 22 at the Middle School West auditorium. Superintendent Foucault will give a brief presentation describing how the push for the bond began and what the current status is. They will then open the floor for attendees to make comments and ask questions.
At their next board meeting after the community input meeting, Sept. 6, the school board will discuss the community input and start deciding which projects, if any, to include in a bond. These discussions may continue into the Sept. 19 meeting before making a final decision on Oct. 3 about whether to pursue to bond, and if so, what the ballot question would include. Legal counsel would then check over the ballot question before the board can give final approval during a special board meeting Oct. 10.
Meanwhile, more information continues to spill in about potential project costs and how those numbers would impact STMA taxpayers. The school board received updated tax impacts for residential taxpayers and they are as follows for a $200,000 house:
$20 million bond $25 per year
$25 million bond $31 per year
$30 million bond $37 per year
$35 million bond $43 per year
Updates on potential bond projects
At Monday evening’s board meeting, the board saw the updated ice arena plans the hockey arena board received Aug. 8. Architect Paul Youngquist of Architects Rego + Youngquist designed the plans, as he did for all of the school district’s more recent building projects.
Though the 2009 arena cost estimates came in at $8 million or less, board member and arena board member Jeff Lindquist said that inflation and improved economic conditions since then have accounted for nearly all of the cost increase for the ice arena expansion, which is now estimated at $9.2 million.
The second sheet of ice would provide space for 1,000 spectators between standing space and 720 seats. Arena board members describe the addition as similar to the Rogers arena, but without as much glass or some of the higher end finishings. The plans feature an elevated lobby with windows to see into the arena, a community room and top loading bleachers.
“Mr. Youngquist said the rink is a workhorse, not a show horse, which I really think speaks to the philosophy of this school board and past school board,” Foucault said.
Besides the ice arena, one of the bond force’s main priorities was to create secure entrances at the schools who currently lack one. The Community Education Center was the most expensive fix by far to create a secure entrance, but Foucault said after talking with community ed. staff about finding a more cost-effective solution, she said they came back to her with a solution that would remove the need for a $900,000 addition to the building. With that item taken off the list, Foucault said the list of highest priority projects is now just under $5 million.
The school board also received results of a demographic study earlier this month that shows continued slow growth for the school district through the year 2021. The district has added an average of 159 students per year for the past six years. The high school will be over capacity by fall of 2018, and Albertville Primary is preparing to welcome a kindergarten class 45 students larger than they had anticipated just this spring. Foucault said kindergarten would continue to be a big wild card for the district, especially with the opening of the new E-8 school in Otsego next fall. That new school is part of the Elk River school district, where STMA gets the majority of its open enrolled students.
The school board will use this demographic information to help them decide whether or not to include additions onto the high school and/or Albertville Primary, which represents a combined cost of approximately $7.6 million.