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School board shaves off half of bond issue budget

Cost projections for a new round of voting on a Kenmare Public School bond issue have been sliced nearly in half after a $14 million bond issue failed in November, 2013.

3/12/14 (Wed)

By Marvin Baker

Cost projections for a new round of voting on a Kenmare Public School bond issue have been sliced nearly in half after a $14 million bond issue failed in November, 2013.

The sparsely attended meeting centered around the school’s demographics for the next five years, which ultimately will require upgrades and additions to the existing high school.

“We want to give you an update on where we were in November and where we’re going,” Kostad told a group of about 15 people, not counting school board members. “We’re telling you about the needs of the district.”

Patrons narrowly defeated a $14 million bond issue in November that would have allowed the board to proceed with adding several classrooms, revamping the vocational agriculture classroom space and building a new gym.

The board needed a 60 percent pass rate and got 49 percent. Thus it was back to the drawing board and Tuesday night’s meeting was the first of two that exposed the public to a revised renovation, cost estimate and upcoming $7.5 million bond issue.

The second public meeting will be held April 1 in the school’s auditorium at 7 p.m.

One of the reasons for a second bond issue is that the district has already been granted a low-interest loan of up to $10 million for such a project.

That application closes in late April, which is why the new bond issue vote will be held April 9.

The bigger hurdle is something has to be done to accommodate the students or peace mealing renovations will eventually nickel and dime the school board into debt they don’t want to see.

Kostad reiterated there are academic needs in the district that have to be addressed soon.

Among them, steady growth in the elementary grades, which puts a strain on the existing buildings.

One way to meet that demand is with portable classrooms. However, according to Kostad, portables could cost up to $175,000 each and would only serve a temporary purpose.

Four classes in Kindergarten through sixth grade are already split with another anticipated next year.

The cost-saving solution is to remodel existing classrooms to make room for the additional children, build a separate, detached vocational agriculture room and add a second gymnasium.

The existing vo-ag classroom space that was built in 1970, needs upgrades and there needs to be additional gymnasium space since physical education is part of the K-12 curriculum.

Kostad said the existing gym is now being used to its maximum and if projections for growth hold true, it will put further strain on an already tight schedule.

“Our gym is really being pushed to the limit,” Kostad said. “We have multiple programs going on at the same time.”

In addition, because this winter has been unusually cold, young children have been kept inside during recess periods, which further complicates things with phy-ed classes in progress.

Kostad added volleyball and football are going on at the same time, three basketball programs and wrestling are happening at the same time and the school is using the Donnybrook gym to carry out another basketball program.

If that’s not enough, he said the varsity girls basketball program most often used the gym in the early morning hours, before school started since that was the only time slot available.

But for those taxpayers who make the assumption that gymnasiums are used only for sports, school board members invited patrons to stop by the school and take a look during the school day and they will get a much better picture of the importance of phy-ed in the curriculum.

Doug Larson, an architect with JLG Architects in Minot, said he was able to trim a lot of cost off the original budget he was given and it will essentially provide the same results.

Spending $7.5 million won’t provide the bells and whistles as before, but it will allow all the children to be accommodated in sufficient classroom space, it will give the vo-ag students a new and separate classroom and a second gym will be added to the existing school that will take some of the pressure of the existing structure.

The ideal solution, according to Kostad, would have been to add the classroom space to the existing school, move the young children to the new school and demolish the old structure.

Instead, the existing elementary that houses K-2 children, will remain open and functional with minor upgrades.

Larson said if projections hold true and the school grows, there will be adequate space for every student. If the school district doesn’t grow, then the board can once again shift its focus to getting all the students into one facility.

The needs are certainly there, according to Kostad. The big difference in cost will be to address the current needs.

“It will be designed to allow for additional phases at a later date,” Kostad said. “For now, the elementary building remains open.”

School board members invited patrons attending the meeting to take a tour of the school and see the issues for themselves.

Kostad suggested those attending tell their neighbors about what they learned Tuesday as well as letting them know about the next meeting April 1.

He said it’s important for voters to know exactly why the school is asking for $7.5 million and these meetings are designed to do that.

Kostad said it’s also important to remember that under the old proposal, a $100,000 piece of farm land or a home of the same value would have been taxed an additional $289 annually, a mill levy increase of 64.3 mills.

Under the new, $7.5 million proposal, a mill-levy increase of 34.4 will add $155 taxation on that same property.

Kostad said two other items are important in the interim leading up to the April 9 vote.

Seniors who meet an income threshold, may not have to be taxed, even if they vote in favor of the proposal and, there may have been some confusion in November regarding voter eligibility.

Kostad said proof of living in the district for 30 days allows a person to vote on the bond issue... Read EVERY WORD on EVERY PAGE of The Kenmare News by subscribing--online or in print!