District looks at two votesFor the second time this year, the Red Wing School Board used a special quarterly workshop to talk about future referendums. Though unlike at its June workshop, the board began making decisions at Monday evening’s meeting.
By: Sarah Gorvin, The Republican Eagle
For the second time this year, the Red Wing School Board used a special quarterly workshop to talk about future referendums. Though unlike at its June workshop, the board began making decisions at Monday evening’s meeting.
“We’re dealing with the possibility of both bond and operating referendums,” Finance Director Brad Johnson said.
Because of that fact, the district has the option to bring the bond referendum to vote on March 13, 2012, the same day as the township election.
But board members agreed that date, just over six months away, doesn’t give the district officials enough time to figure how much they the bond referendum should be.
“March scares me because I don’t like going out twice and asking for money,” Board member Steve Anderson said, referring to the fact that the district could put the operating referendum to vote in November 2012.
“I’m really not feeling March,” Chairwoman Heidi Jones agreed. “I don’t know if we’ve had enough of a conversation about our needs.”
Those needs include critical building repairs, including aging roof on a number of buildings. During June’s workshop, Buildings and Grounds Director Kevin Johnson said the high school’s roof had a ten year guarantee, which is now seven years past its due date.
Other capital needs include technology updates, funding for annual needs like textbooks, vehicles and computers and software.
In all, Kevin Johnson showed the board Monday night a list of capital needs totaling about $23 million. That’s down from a $40 million list of needs he showed the board last June.
According to the district’s bond consultant Mike Hoheisel, that $23 million bond is about the maximum the district could ask for while still keeping its bond levy relatively flat for taxpayers.
“We try to keep it at same level — no increase,” Brad Johnson said.
Another large question mark in the district’s capital needs is space. An uptick in enrollment over the past two years has the board wondering whether the district’s current buildings will be enough to house a seemingly growing population.
A few years ago, Red Wing’s kindergarten class had 180 students. This year, that number is up to 245.
Sunnyside Elementary Principal Patti Roberts pointed out at Monday’s meeting that those kindergarten numbers “roll up” through the grades as students age.
But board members expressed concerns about the unknowns: whether the growing class size is here to stay or if it’s just a short-lived growth spurt that won’t require additions to school buildings.
“What is next year’s going to look like?” Anderson asked.
Another piece is an expiring lease at the Anderson Center, where the district houses Tower View Alternative Learning Center. It’s not clear yet whether the district will renew that lease or look at a new or different space.
“Those are huge decisions that I don’t think we’d be prepared for in March,” Jones added.
Instead, the board decided to take the time to do what Supt. Karsten Anderson called “thoughtful research and planning in advance.”
“I’m relieved if we don’t go to March,” he added. “We can start putting that information together in a comprehensive plan.”
If the board decides to go ahead with a bond referendum, that election could be held concurrently with the district’s operating referendum vote, which would come in November 2012 or 2013, depending on what the board decides.
On Monday, the board also discussed options for passing its next operating referendum, though made no decisions.