By Gabe Licht
DELANO, MN Voters will go to the polls Tuesday, Nov. 3, to decide whether or not to approve up to $65 million in bonds for Delano Public Schools after the school board voted unanimously June 22 to call the election.
“The recommendation is to move forward and pass this resolution which essentially will ask our community a bond referendum in November of 2015 for an amount, in two questions, totaling $65 million,” Superintendent Matt Schoen said.
The first question regards $46 million for projects including a new school building for fourth through sixth grade; improvements to existing school facilities; a secure, controlled entry for the high school; and the construction of parking and traffic-flow improvements.
The second question, contingent on the first question being approved, regards $19 million for projects including turf and other improvements to the physical education and athletic field space, the renovation of the swimming pool and related improvements, the construction of an addition to the Tiger Activity Center at the high school and related renovations, and the construction of a performing arts center addition to the high school.
After the meeting, Schoen explained the rationale behind asking for the funds in two separate questions.
“It came down to a price point and a concern that the price point was potentially a concern for our property taxpayers,” Schoen said.
“Question 1 is literally, seriously the basics,” Schoen continued. “This is the basics for K-12 space. The second question is, if we want to continue the tradition of not only just meeting the standards but exceeding like we do with our test scores, then we’ll need to have the second question passed, as well. That’s going to position us for curricular and cocurricular activities where this community can really utilize our space much more effectively.”
Following approval by the board, the district submitted the proposal for review and comment by the Minnesota commissioner of education.
Preliminary data estimates that a $46 million bond will increase property taxes between $329 and $372 for homes valued between $225,000 and $250,000, with a $19 million bond costing an additional $153 to $173 for that same valuation range.
Board member Sarah Baker thanked those who helped the board reach the decision.
“We should call out and thank the group that participated in all that hard work that led to that recommendation,” Baker said. “I know a lot of work went into that, so I think we’re excited to see this come to the ballot.”
Additional fourth-grade teacher
Schoen confirmed after the meeting that the district approved an additional fourth-grade teacher.
“It’s mainly due to some additional open-enrollment students that came into the district,” Schoen said. “It put us in a position where, by the numbers, we needed to support that grade with another section to keep class sizes within our parameters.”
About 30 people had attended the April 27 school board meeting to request an additional teacher and a fundraising effort to cover the cost of another teacher had begun before the district put the position in the budget.
Odds and ends
In other business, the board:
• approved the 2015-16 original budget. It calls for the district to spend about $29.3 million in the 2015-16 school year, reducing the fund balance about $900,000 to $6.63 million. The unassigned fund balance of the general fund will decrease by about $473,000, and the capital fund by about $230,000. Food services will have a deficit of $30,000 for a piece of equipment in the elementary school, which the district hopes to recoup by the end of the year, and Delano Community Education is showing a deficit that will be reimbursed within a couple years.
• approved the health and safety policy and estimated costs of $97,714 for the 2015-16 budget, compared to $121,111 for the 2014-15 budget.
• approved a health insurance contract with Resource Training and Solutions for 2015-17 with a 0 percent increase for 2015-16 and a maximum rate increase of 9 percent for 2016-17.
• approved several personnel items, including the retirement of Delano Elementary School administrative assistant Nancy Wetter after 27 years.
• updated the district’s population from 11,233 to 11,493 for Delano Community Education.
• approved new student school board representative Dani Stevens for 2015-17.
• approved the Delano Elementary School student handbook with minor changes and the Delano Middle School student handbook with no changes to give new Principal Barry Voight an opportunity to review it after his first year.
• learned that a group is working toward establishing a girls hockey team in Delano that would be independent from Buffalo in 2016 or 2017.