The St. Michael-Albertville School Board decided at a Monday evening work session it will move ahead with a $35 million bond request, deciding at a work session Monday evening it will support each proposed aspect of next winter’s potential bond.
Though it has not yet been officially approved, it appears that the potential bond won’t be potential much longer. After discussions, the school board was unanimous (with board member Chuck Lefebvre absent) in their agreement to pursue the February bond, and to pursue all the possible projects they had been considering. This will include the following items for a total of $34,823,480:
–Second sheet of ice: $9.2 million. Superintendent Dr. Ann-Marie Foucault said this amount would be reduced by $290,000 in the final bond measure due to the $250,000 Mighty Ducks grant and the $40,000 Kraft Hockeyville prize money.
–8 additional classrooms at Albertville Primary and 12 additional classrooms at STMA High School: $9.22 million. This will bring the high school’s capacity to 2,360 from the current 2,000. Foucault said they are anticipating 2,282 students by fall of 2018. The Albertville Primary capacity will be 500 students as well as enough space for the Early Childhood Special Education program, which was recently moved to St. Michael Elementary due to space shortages.
–Secure entrances at the high school, Middle School East and Albertville Primary: $338,000. The other schools already have secure entrances.
–Energy efficiency projects: $1,170,000. This includes purchasing diesel generators for several schools so the district can participate in an energy savings program that they estimate will save $125,000-$130,000 in annual energy costs. Other energy efficiency projects include switching all rooms to LED lighting district-wide and purchasing an off-season boiler/back-up and air conditioner for the Community Ed. Center’s gym.
–Technology: $2,469,000. This would allow the school district to maintain their current rate of technology replacement, repair and infrastructure maintenance for the next three years. It would not be used for any type of new technology. Foucault said the school board will need to discuss a better system for funding technology. Currently, she said eight-year-old computers are replacing 10-year-old computers.
–Urgent repair and equipment replacement of the Middle School East pool: $450,000. This project deals with the pool’s pumps, filters and piping and will need to be completed in the spring whether the bond passes or not, but the funding will come from the general fund or long-term facilities fund if it does not pass.
–Athletic facility changes for tennis, baseball and softball: $720,000. This includes building new tennis courts at the high school for the high school teams, relocating the high school baseball fields to the high school and making upgrades to the softball fields to satisfy Title IX requirements. Board member and district rationale for these changes are to increase student safety by eliminating high school student travel to off-site practice locations, giving greater access to the athletic trainer and fulfilling a vision to give all high school teams a home at the high school. Buildings and grounds coordinator Terry Zerwas also said the Middle School West tennis courts are nearly to the end of their life. He said middle school tennis players could use the Middle School East tennis courts and said he felt the West tennis courts could still be used for physical education classes, but thought in the future that half of the West tennis courts should be torn out and replaced with playground equipment such as basketball hoops for recess time.
–All-purpose athletic facility: $11,248,720. This project includes an artificial turf field, dome, lights, bathrooms, concessions, a track and bleachers. This item inspired the most questions and debate, but in the end the school board voiced their opinion that they felt the facility would be an asset to the district and the whole community, and that it would keep high school student athletes at the high school in the interest of student safety and access to a trainer.
Students would utilize the all-purpose facility for physical education classes during the school day, then student athletes would use it until around 6 p.m. After that, Foucault said the facility would be rented out to youth sports leagues and other groups from 6-10 p.m. Monday-Friday and from 6 a.m.-10 p.m. on weekends. The turf field without the dome could be rented during the months the dome was down, which would be around April-October.
All of these rentals would need to add up to $325,000 in revenue per year, which is the expected annual maintenance and operation expense. That figure also includes setting aside a certain amount of money annually for dome replacement, which is necessary about every 10 years.
Foucault got to these numbers through talking with the Maple Grove, Wayzata and Eden Prairie school districts, which also operate domed facilities, and she shared the information she obtained with board members in an expenses versus revenue report. While the report is still in draft form, Foucault said she felt confident that the all-purpose facility could break even or make money. If not, she said she would not have recommended adding it to the bond.
“(At) $325,000, that’s five or six teachers,” Foucault said. “There’s no way I would put the district in jeopardy.”
Foucault said she has spoken with local youth baseball, softball, soccer and lacrosse sports leagues, and she said they were all willing to create a letter of intent to purchase a certain number of hours at the facility. She said they all need to go back to their boards to discuss specific numbers of hours, but said she felt a sense of confidence from them that they are eager to utilize the facility. Additionally, while STMA youth sports and activities would receive priority, board members said that neighboring towns’ youth leagues would likely want to rent space as well.
The domed all-purpose facility adds $6 per year in additional taxes for a $200,000 home, which the school board felt was very reasonable for the benefit it would provide.
One Bond Question
After coming to consensus on the bond items, the school board discussed whether to pursue all projects under one bond question or break it up into multiple questions. They have heard many requests for multiple bond questions over the past couple months, but in the end they decided to propose the entire bond under one question for a few reasons.
For one, board member Jeff Lindquist said that as a representative democracy, the elected representatives of the taxpayers and stakeholders should be responsible for doing the research and making their best recommendation, rather than leaving it up to direct democracy.
“We have invested a lot of time and a lot of resources into studying these issues,” he said. “It is our job to take that knowledge we have gained, use our best judgment and present to our stakeholders the best recommendation we have.”
Board member Drew Scherber said he felt separate questions would send a message that the school board doesn’t feel certain things are a need. He said it has been shown historically that it is very difficult to pass more than one bond question at a time.
Carol Steffens was the only board member to say she was interested in having two questions, because she wouldn’t want to see the ice arena fail if people weren’t supportive of the all-purpose facility, but she said she would go with the consensus.
The school board plans to officially approve the bond referendum at their next regular meeting, Oct. 3.