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School board sees conceptual drawing of proposed new school

February 4, 2008

By Ryan Gueningsman
Managing Editor

Members of the Delano School Board had the chance to take a first look at a conceptual drawing of what a proposed grades 4-6 building might look like at a special work session Tuesday night.

The board is planning on asking district voters for funds to acquire land and build a new building that would house grades 4-6, with the special election set to take place Tuesday, April 22.

At the work session, architect Paul Youngquist of ARY Architects said the conceptual drawing showed activity spaces on the left, and classrooms on the right.

The school board discussed with Youngquist various security concerns, bus loading, and other aspects of the proposal.

The proposed building, as it sits now, faces the east. An advantage of this is that the parking lot could serve double-duty in the event of an overflow from Delano Area Sports Arena (DASA), an elementary event, or Tiger football games.

Youngquist reviewed the timeline, if voters approve the proposal, and said the design process would take place from May through the end of the year, which would include detailing, blueprints, and final design work.

In January 2009, bids would be called for, with construction beginning in February 2009. Work on the building would take place throughout the summer and into fall of 2010, with an anticipated opening date of August 2010 – in time for the beginning of the 2010-11 school year.

Youngquist said the timeline is “just right,” adding that if there is unusual weather during the construction, it could get a little tight.

How much will it cost?

The three purchase agreements for the land total $980,000 and include the price of the land, closing costs, appraisal, costs associated with the issue of the bonds, surveying, attorney fees, and title insurance.

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, totaling 13 acres.

Construction costs for the building are estimated at $24,824,760, which also includes site improvements, grading, piping, car parking, and other things associated with construction.

The board is planning on having two questions on the April ballot.

Question one will be for the land acquisition. On an average tax-valued residential homestead house of $272,500, taxes would increase $15 per year or $1.25 per month.

Question two will ask for funding for the 4-6 building. On an average tax-valued homestead house of $272,500, taxes would increase $158 per year or $13.16 per month.

Both questions combined would be $173.00 per year, or $14.41 per month.

Timeline leading up to the April 2008 election

In November 2007, the school district conducted 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.

According to information supplied by the school board, the election was driven by increasing enrollments, with numbers 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.

Now, the school board is making plans for a bond election Tuesday, April 22 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 in order 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.

A commonly asked question the board gets is if it has considered the timing of this election given the current status of the economy.

According to information supplied by the school board, the need for a new elementary school will not go away and will, in fact, become more serious and significantly more expensive if the district does not act now.

According to its 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. Borrowing costs for school bonds are currently at historical lows, according to information provided by the board. 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 the costs, and selling bonds in a low-interest environment will result in significantly lower costs for the school district and its taxpayers.

What’s next?

The board has a tentative meeting date set for Thursday, Feb. 7 at 6 p.m. at the Delano City Hall to pass a resolution officially calling the election.

Late last week, Superintendent Dr. John Sweet said that meeting has not officially been posted yet, as he is waiting to hear back on the state’s review and comment process, which he said he should have received by the end of last week.

Looking ahead, Sweet said an informational brochure will be worked on to get more information out to district residents, and said to watch the school district’s web site – www.delano.k12.mn.us for updates as the April 22 date draws closer.

He said one feature on the web site will be a tax calculator, where one can plug in tax values, and it will tell what the tax increase will be.

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