By Ivan Raconteur
LESTER PRAIRIE, MN Lester Prairie School Board will face some difficult decisions during tonight’s (Sept. 17) meeting.
The board will need to decide whether or not the district should proceed with a special election in 2013.
The board learned in August that the Minnesota Department of Education (MDE) had denied the district’s request to transfer funds to pay for items related to the building improvement project.
July 2, the board asked the MDE to approve a transfer of $806,800 from alternative facility restricted/reserve 409 in the building construction fund to the operating capital restricted/reserve 424 in the general fund.
In a letter dated July 26, the MDE denied the request, stating it does not meet the requirements for approval under the law.
The district appealed the decision. McNulty and other district representatives met with the MDE, but the MDE did not change its decision.
McNulty said part of the reason the district appealed the denial of transfer is that the sprinkler system was recommended by the fire marshal and asbestos abatement was necessary, and should be allowed as part of the project.
Because the MDE denied the appeal, the board will likely have to ask for voter approval to transfer the funds or bond for the improvements.
McNulty said the transfer of funds would not increase the levy or the taxes of the district.
McNulty noted the board could also ask for approval to transfer an amount less than the $806,000 figure.
If the board approves a special election, it would take place in January or later, according to McNulty.
A special election would probably cost the Lester Prairie School District about $10,000, McNulty said.
Background on the transfer request
The purpose of the proposed transfer was to pay for additional work that was needed as part of the building improvement project that is underway at the school.
McNulty explained during a special board meeting July 2 that bids for the project came in $824,000 less than the construction budget for the project.
McNulty said the request to transfer $824,000 included everything that had been identified at that time. The biggest unforeseen costs involved a sprinkler system and additional asbestos abatement that was not included in the original scope of the project.
McNulty noted that the fire marshal strongly recommended the district install a sprinkler system. If the board had not agreed to install the sprinkler system, other changes to the project would have been required, and, according to McNulty, those changes could have increased costs and caused delays in the project.
Some of the asbestos abatement that was needed was not discovered until the project was started, McNulty noted. For example, once workers started work on the kitchen area, they discovered two additional ceilings above the one that was visible, and the third ceiling required abatement.
The board will also have to decide what action to take regarding a portion of the roof that needs repair.
The lowest bid received for the work was $344,000.
McNulty said the board will need to decide tonight if it wants the work completed this fall. Delaying a decision would not give the contractor enough time to finish this season.
The board could also decide to delay repairs until next year, McNulty said.
He noted that this would open up the possibility for more damage over the winter.
The price of repairs could also increase next year, McNulty noted.
One thing that is certain, according to McNulty, is that the repairs will have to be done at some point.