Herald JournalHerald Journal, Sept. 1, 2003

Rapid growth near Montrose is fueling part of school district's bond

By Lynda Jensen

A new Buffalo elementary school and the purchase of land near Montrose is on the wish list for the Buffalo-Hanover-Montrose school district, which will be going to voters this fall asking for a $42.4 million bond.

The bond will fund expansion of the district, including new buildings, renovations, and maintenance.

The bond is fueled by heavy residential development in all three communities of Buffalo, Hanover and Montrose; although Montrose is growing at an exponential rate with five new housing developments underway.

Montrose building permits are also up, with 40 permits issued in 2000, 101 in 2001, 130 in 2002.

As part of this growth, the cities of Montrose and Waverly are building a joint sewer treatment facility located in Montrose.

Montrose Elementary is at capacity now, according to the school district, with classrooms being shared and storage rooms being converted into offices.

In addition, the district has considered turning away open enrolled students in certain grades due to overcapacity.

Enrollment at the district has gone up from 3,843 in 1987-88, 4,251 in 1992-93, 4,678 in 1997-98 to 5,070 in 2002-03.

The bond is expected to address this growth by making improvements in Buffalo, Montrose, and Hanover, which are all growing.

Specifically for Montrose, the bond will add two classrooms, a multi-purpose room (gym space), restrooms, storage space, mechanical electrical updates, Early Childhood Family Education space, and land for future projects ­ possibly a new middle school.

The land is necessary in an area that is being squeezed by development, and which will become harder to come by, according to John Siffert, district business manager.

Ten years ago, when the district purchased land for Montrose Elementary, it was valued at $5,000 per acre. Now this value is five times that amount, according to district officials.

"As development expands in Montrose, vacant land will become harder to find and more costly. Buying land now will be a good investment." Siffert said.

The timing is also right for building, since contractors are hungry for work, said Eric Hamilton, director of buildings and grounds.

The building plans were part of a recommendation given in the spring by a district and citizen committee established by the district almost three years ago.

The bond package can only be used for new buildings, renovations, and maintenance.

District voters approved an operating levy last year.

A guide to distinguish the bond and levy is contained in a special edition of the Insider district newsletter: a "bond" is for "building." The word "levy" is associated with "learning" or operating costs. This is true for all districts seeking either bonds or levies.

The bond will add several items to the Buffalo middle school, including six classrooms, music space, student lockers, storage space, mechanical and electrical updates and restrooms.

For the high school in Buffalo, the bond will add four classrooms, music space, physical education space, cafeteria space, student lockers, storage, and mechanical and electrical upgrades.

At Buffalo Community Middle School, six classrooms and music space will be added with additional restrooms and student lockers.

Most of the bond money will be used to construct a new 450-student elementary school on the west side of Buffalo.

The new building will help overcrowding at Tatanka and Parkside Elementary Schools, on acreage that meets the size requirements of the Minnesota Department of Education.

The deferred maintenance projects include air quality improvements, playground and parking lot repairs, partial roof replacements, handicapped accessibility updates and energy efficiency improvements.


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