Tuesday, January 8, 2008

School Board Proposes June 3 Referendum - Volunteers Needed for Public Information Campaign

The Baldwin-Woodville Board of Education continued its discussion regarding the recommendation of the Community Facility Needs Exploratory Committee to build a new intermediate school, which was presented at last month's meeting.

Board President Jeff Campbell gave a brief overview of the situation, explaining the committee was formed after space concerns were identified at district buildings. The committee was comprised of citizens, teachers, Campbell and Supt. Rusty Helland. Professional advice was obtained from HSR Architecture Engineering and Kraus-Anderson Construction Company. The committee started its work last April and recommends a new intermediate school for grades three through five be constructed on property owned by the district.

Steve Apfelbacher of Ehlers & Associated Financial Services advised the board that refundable bonds originally issued in 1991 and mature in 2010, can be changed to be due in 2011. This would reduce the tax spike of an other bond issue caused by delayed state aid payments to the district.

"Have bond rates changed?" asked board member John Hinz.

Apfelbacher said they have come down a bit since last month. "They are headed in the right direction," he said.

"If the board wants to build a new school, we need to set a timetable," prompted Supt. Helland.

A lengthy discussion followed concerning the timing of a referendum.

Board members Campbell and Todd Graf agreed that an April 1 referendum to coincide with the spring election doesn't give the board enough time to inform the public.

Apfelbacher said that state law requires the school board to pass the initial resolution more than 45 days before the election and publish formal notices before the election.

Once the resolution is passed, Brad Simonson of HSR said that in his experience it takes four weeks to present the information to the public.

"I think we should wait until the November general election so we can see what our new enrollment figures are and have spent a summer with $3.00 gas," commented Hinz. "We would get good voter turn out for the general election."

"It will probably take two years to build the school," said board member Mike Bondarenko. "Waiting until November seems too long."

Besides, Bondarenko said, "We have already had a really good committee do the research and we need to act, but April seems too soon."

Helland noted the committee used the past ten years of enrollment data in making its recommendation.

John Huenink of Kraus-Anderson agreed that voter turnout could be good at the November election, but said that if the district waits that long inflation starts to increase the cost of construction.

Board member Deb Rasmussen asked fellow board members if a separate question about financing the swimming pool should be included in the referendum. It appeared the rest of the board agreed that the question needs to be asked.

In the end, the board agreed to set June 3, 2008 for the referendum. No formal motion was listed on the agenda, so none was made.

Supt. Helland recommended setting up two committees: Public Relations and Public Presentation, which would include the professional team. Volunteers are needed for the committees and Helland indicated that people have already shown interest. Helland can be contacted at the district office, 684-3411 for information about volunteering for the committees.

During the open forum, district resident Ken Rundhaug questioned the district's choice of architect and engineering firms. "It seems like there were a lot of problems with the past project," he said.

"We looked at a few firms," said Campbell. "We haven't hired anyone yet." HSR and Kraus-Anderson wouldn't be hired until after a referendum is passed.

Helland agreed that there were problems with the past building project and assured Rundhaug that the district is consulting with two different companies than were used at that time.

The board approved continuing to work with HSR, Kraus-Anderson, and Ehlers.

Tom Kortas of LarsonAllen LLP presented the annual district audit report. The total cost of services for 2007 was $16,462,000 according to his report. Of that, 52.7% was for instruction, 7.7% for pupil and instructional services, 10.5% for operations and maintenance, and 6.0% for administration and business.

General state aid accounts for 51.1% of district revenues and 34.7% comes from property taxes. The balance is from fees and grants.

Kortas noted that the fund balance is $1,782.214, up $218,281 from last year. At 16 percent of the total budget, the figure falls in the recommended range of 15 to 20 percent, he said.

Supt. Helland commented that the district needed to short-term borrow just one time last year for a few days until state aid monies were received. The fund balance helps reduce the need to short-term borrow, he said.

Transportation/Athletic Director Wade Labecki informed the board that the district's new television station is on the air as of last Thursday. "It's message oriented right now," he said.
Included on the station right now are menus, schedules, etc. "Film takes a lot more space," Labecki said. "Baldwin Telecom is already expanding our broadband," to accommodate film he said.

Following a closed session a high school student was expelled through the end of the year for a bomb threat, which occurred before the Christmas break, according to Supt. Helland.