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Frequently asked questions about the upcoming school district election

April 7, 2008

From the Delano School District

In November 2007, the school district had an election with three questions on the ballot.

Question one was for an operating levy ($285 per student) to finance the operations of a new 4-6 building.

Question two was a bond referendum for the construction of a 4-6 building and the purchase of 13 acres of property adjacent to the campus in an amount not to exceed $29,030,000.

Question three was for additional physical education/athletic fields, synthetic turf for the football field, community education building upgrades and air conditioning for the cardio and weight room in the Tiger Activities Center in an amount not to exceed $810,000.

The election was driven by increasing enrollments with enrollments increasing by 388 students since 2002. All buildings exceed the capacity for which they are designed.

Question one was the only one of the three that passed. The school district did not levy for the $285 per student since it was designated for the operation of the 4-6 building and since that question did not pass, the dollars were not levied for that purpose.

The school board is now making plans for a bond election Tuesday, April 22, 2008 for the purchase of the land (question one) in an amount not to exceed $980,000 and the construction of the 4-6 building (question two) in an amount not to exceed $27,295,000.

Question one must pass for question two to pass. In other words, question two is contingent upon the passage of question one, as it is necessary to have the land in order to construct the building.

This election is different than the November 2007 election in that there is no operating levy on the ballot, and the land and 4-6 building are separated into two questions.

This ballot does not contain a question regarding additional physical education/athletic fields, synthetic turf, Community Education building upgrades, or air conditioning of the cardio and weight rooms in the Tiger Activity Center.

Frequently-asked questions about the upcoming election

Some of the questions regarding this election that have been raised include the following:

Has the school board considered the timing of this election given the current status of the economy?

The need for a new elementary school will not go away and will, in fact, become more serious and significantly more expensive if we do not act now.

According to our architect, construction costs are increasing at a rate of at least 3 percent per year.

Delaying construction of the 4-6 building will add at least $818,850 to the cost of the building if it is delayed one year.

We can avoid these unnecessary costs and taxes by acting now. Additionally, borrowing costs for school bonds are currently at historical lows. Selling the bonds in this low interest environment will save taxpayers hundreds of thousands of dollars.

While the economy is certainly under some stress presently, property taxes for the new school will not go on the tax rolls until 2009.

Over the long-term, taking action before inflation adds to our costs, and selling bonds in a low-interest environment will result in significantly lower costs for the school district and its taxpayers.

What land is being purchased? The school district has purchase agreements on the property directly across the street west of the elementary building and directly north of the city’s water treatment plant.

There are three separate parcels; two owned by private parties and one owned by the City of Delano, for a total of 13 acres.

What is the cost of the land? The three purchase agreements total $980,000. This includes the price of the land, closing costs, appraisal, costs associated with the issue of the bonds, surveying, attorney fees, and title insurance.

Why do we need to purchase the land? The Minnesota Department of Education is requiring the school district to add at least 13 usable acres to the school site for the construction of the 4-6 building.

Why not locate the building off site at a different location? The school board believes it is in the best interests of the school district to locate the new building on the existing campus as it is cost-efficient in having all students and staff in close proximity.

It is easier for buildings to share staff with this configuration. School bussing is more efficient with all buildings closely located. Our k-12 general fund expenditures for FY06 (latest year comparative date is available) were $1,736 less than the state average.

Having all students on one campus contributes to efficient cost of operations. As the district continues to grow, the next construction project will need to be at another location.

Why was it decided to build a 4-6 building? The 4-6 building would allow the fourth grade to move from the existing elementary to the new building freeing up at least seven classrooms there.

The fifth and sixth grades would move from the existing middle school to the new building.

This frees up space in all three buildings and allows the high school to migrate into the middle school over time.

What would the 4-6 building look like? This educational facility will be designed to serve grades four through six.

It will be divided into three distinctively separate learning centers. Each center will contain nine classrooms, a student study/project lab, special education rooms, staff areas, student lockers, and toilets.

Preliminary discussions suggest that the school will be organized with a separate grade in each center; however, the building will be flexible enough to accommodate a variety of configurations.

The design will allow for easy and secure after-hours access to one-third of the building.

Spaces such as music, cafeteria, gymnasium, and stage will be located here. The building will be a minimum of two stories. The design will maximize the use of natural daylight, be sensitive to energy conservation, minimize disturbance to the existing environment, and create the healthiest indoor environment through the proper selection of building materials and ventilation systems.

The building will contain approximately 113,371 square feet.

Ballot question two calls for the construction of a grade 4-6 elementary building, additional high school science rooms, additional middle school and high school music rooms, security and other facility improvements. Explain the need for the science, music, security and other facility improvements.

The increased enrollments in the middle school and high school puts stress on both science classrooms and music areas.

Instrumental music space has not been increased since the enrollment of both buildings has doubled.

Science and music need specialized space to accommodate the instructional programs. The high school has recently added a science teacher to accommodate increased enrollments, which has made the scheduling of science labs difficult. More science teachers will need to be added in the future. Plus, four classes of science for high school students are being required in the future by the state.

There is an increased emphasis on school building security in today’s environment.

School safety is the only thing more important than teaching and learning. All of our buildings need some security upgrades, especially at the entrances to help protect against intruders and provide a better line of sight and closer surveillance for all who enter.

The other facility improvements include such things as school bus parking, car parking at both the 4-6 building and high school, playground equipment, site grading, furniture and equipment, and utility connections and fees.

What is the impact of open enrolled students on our school population? Minnesota is an open enrollment state, which means the state legislature desires that students be given choice in the public schools in which they attend.

For the 2006-07 school year, the school district had 198 resident students enrolling out to other schools, and 229 coming in, for a net difference of 31 students spread over 13 grades.

In January 2008, the school board limited open enrollment in accordance with state law for grades one through 12.

State law does not allow school boards to totally close open enrollment. Under this limitation, the school district must allow at least 1 percent of the enrollment in each grade to open enroll. The 1 percent limitation is the most stringent allowable by state law.

Kindergarten was not closed because open-enrolled families may have students already enrolled and the school board did not want to have families with children in separate school districts.

Election informational meetings this week

The school district will have a bond election Tuesday, April 22, to address the overcrowding of buildings that is brought on by continued enrollment increases.

Two informational open houses are set for Delano Schools to share information on the upcoming election.

Meetings include:

• Tuesday, April 8, 3 to 8 p.m. at the high school cafeteria

• Thursday, April 10, 6 to 8 p.m. at the elementary school cafeteria

For more information, visit www.delano.k12.mn.us

Do you know more about this subject, or have a comment? E-mail news@hjpub.com