State equity aid, a competitive market and low interest rates were the advantages for a new school building, said Moose Lake Community Schools Superintendent Robert Indihar to the community members on the task force that attended a meeting on Thursday, January 10.
The task force reviewed the plans for a new school and came up with the recommendation to the school board to build a prekindergarten-12 school on the school district property located along County Road 10 on the south end of town.
The school board also favors a complete prekindergarten-12 school on that property.
Supt. Indihar explained to the task force that state aid in the amount of $7.7 million is available for the $33 million cost of the school.
“That wasn’t available for past bond issues,” he said.
He explained that the school board was considering building in two phases: first building a high school, and then building an elementary school at a later date. The current elementary wing is the newest part of the school, having been built in 1988. However, the elementary wing was damaged when floodwaters surrounded it last June.
The city’s flood manager, Tom Paull, explained that the school is not officially located on a flood plain, and the U. S. Geological Service may not declare it a flood plain for many years. Flood plains are changed every 10 years, he said. The last one was updated in 1985.
Community members have asked that the Moose Lake School District consolidate with either the Barnum School District or the Willow River School District.
Supt. Indihar explained that letters had been sent to both school boards to ask if consolidation could be discussed.
Both boards declined any discussion, said Supt. Indihar.
“There seems to be confusion about what consolidation would entail,” he added. “The districts want to share services, and we do share athletics with Willow River and share psychologists. If we consolidate, we would legally be one school district.”
Partnering with another entity has been discussed. Supt. Indihar suggested that the school district could partner with the city in the relocation of the arena on the school district property. He suggested a common mechanical and bus garage also.
Supt. Indihar said that the school board has agreed to partner with the Rushford-Peterson School District, another district located in southern Minnesota that had experienced a flood, in hiring a lobbyist to encourage state assistance be granted to the school districts in the legislative session. The school in that community is similar to the Moose Lake School in that it had several additions, and the oldest portion needs to be replaced.
The Moose Lake School District has the advantage of land that can be sold for development. The proceeds from the sale of the land can be used to pay on the mortgage for a new school.
The school district plans to sell 24 acres of land to the city, who will, in turn, sell it to a developer who plans on constructing facilities for new businesses this construction season. More land is available for future development.
“We have a poor tax base in this area,” said Supt. Indihar. “New commercial development will also create a higher tax base. We think that we are at the crux of something big. There is nowhere to go but up. There can be many lots there.”
Pat Overom of ICS Consulting reported that the bond rates are low, running around 2.6 percent.
That would cut 10 years of payments off, he said.
For a 20-year bond, a $100,000 property would pay $332 a year on the new school, which is $60 a year lower than three previous bond proposals, which failed in referendum elections.
This referendum proposal is planned to be brought to the school district voters in May.
Gary Benson of ICS Consulting reported that the new school would not be an oversized facility but it would have spaces that the current school does not have. The school could be designed so that classrooms could be added if there was a need.
“This school was designed in an era that was not this era,” added Supt. Indihar. “Security has become an issue. The new school would be built to the size of the classes that we have right now.”
Supt. Indihar also reported that new families that move into the area do not often look at what is inside of the building, they just look at the outside, and, as a result, send their students to a school district with more modern buildings. A new school may attract more open enrollment students.
Deferred maintenance costs are also a consideration.
Supt. Indihar reported that the school board has been reluctant to put money into rehabilitation of the old building, such as a new roof, tuck pointing, or replacing the windows and installing a new ventilation system in the elementary wing.
“For us it is a real cost,” he said. “We would prefer to put that money into a new building. It has to be spent somewhere.”
Benson said that the cost to demolish the old portion of the school would be included in the $33 million for a new school.
“The old portion of school would be vacant and become an eyesore if it is left standing,” said Supt. Indihar.
Task Force members advised the school officials to include cost comparisons of rebuilding a new high school wing on the current site with the cost of a complete new school when information is presented to the public.
Paull added that a new school would have to be raised six feet if built on the current site because of possible flooding.
The most important reason for a new school was for the benefit of the kids, it was said.
“It’s on our minds now, $33 million is nothing to pay for the life of a child,” said elementary teacher Joann Unzen.
The recommendation of the task force for a complete new school, with cost comparisons for building a new high school on the current site, was set to be brought to the school board at the working meeting on Monday, January 14.