Moose Lake Star Gazette - Serving Carlton and Pine Counties Since 1895

By Robert Indihar
Moose Lake Star-Gazette 

Superintendent's Corner


January 31, 2019

The Moose Lake School Board has begun planning for a referendum this spring or summer to complete projects at the Moose Lake Community School that were not part of the final workplan funded by the 2014 referendum. Meetings have already been held with community members and education staff to understand their priorities for facilities investment, and the school board has begun to develop potential ballot questions for a possible May election.

Enclosed below are the answers to some of the questions you may have about this proposed referendum. If you have any other questions, please contact me at or call me at 218-485-4435 x1108 with comments and questions.

Didn’t we recently pass a referendum?

In November 2014, voters who live in the Moose Lake School District supported a referendum to build a new preK-12 community school to replace our aging facilities that had suffered significant damage during a major flood in 2012. State action to increase equalization aid to pay for roughly 60 percent of the cost of the bonds made the project cost-effective for local property owners.

Why are there still projects left to complete?

The initial referendum was not intended to pay for all potential work on the 165-acre site – this school will serve this community for several future generations, and will likely be improved and repaired many times during the time we use the site. However, there are still projects that are remaining from the plans we made back in 2014.

Prior to the 2014 referendum, we obtained the best possible estimates of the likely cost of the new building, including outdoor spaces such as the athletic fields and sufficient parking lots. The Minnesota Department of Education reviewed our plan and determined it met state education and finance standards. After public approval of the referendum, we divided the project into six different bid packages, allowing a variety of contractors an opportunity to become part of the project. According to state law, a school district must accept the lowest qualified bid for all construction projects, and our construction manager assured the school board that we were meeting the budget after the first five bids were accepted. However, the last bids for outdoor work came in significantly higher than initial estimates.

While it is unusual for architects and construction managers to miss the mark, during a growing economy the price of labor and materials rise for major facility projects. In response, the school board determined we were unlikely to receive lower bids if we reissued the plans for rebid, so we trimmed the scope of the projects to meet the $34.7 million budget that local residents had approved through the referendum.

If we approve a new referendum that completes this unfinished work, will this result in higher local property taxes than we approved in 2014?

No. The current tax impact is less than projected in 2014, and the school board is analyzing plans that will keep the tax impact lower than the 2014 projections.

Will the extra state equalization aid remain available if we pass a new referendum?

At this time, the special equalization aid provided to our school district due to the flood remains part of state law and would apply to a successful 2019 referendum. The state legislature has a strong history of protecting equalization payments once a referendum has passed — and this special aid is only available if the public approves the project through a referendum.

What are the projects that the school board has discussed?

Some of the projects include: adding an early childhood playground, completing surfacing of the parking lots, construction and completion of the softball field(s), improvements to the football field/track and adding locker rooms and concessions. It is not likely that all of these projects will be part of the final referendum questions for 2019.

Are we still working with the same consultants who designed and built the new school?

No. Now that the new school is finished, the school board has hired ICS Consulting, a company with substantial experience with facilities planning in this region, to help the school board determine how to make these improvements for the lowest possible price without sacrificing safety or educational needs.

How will the school board determine what to do?

Over the next few weeks, I would like to hear thoughts from community members on this proposed referendum. There are four key questions that the school board needs to answer:

• What are the most important projects remaining – the ones that truly need to get done?

• What other projects would be more economical to do now, while more urgent projects are completed, rather than wait until some time in the future?

• What is the best way to fund these projects?

• What is the right timing?

You can contact me at or call me at 218-485-4435 x1108 with comments and questions.

How would these projects impact the co-operative athletic agreement with Willow River Schools?

The purpose of this project is to improve athletic facilities at Moose Lake in ways that benefit students, parents and the community. Our high school teams will obviously benefit from these investments.

When will a decision be made?

If the school board decides on a May referendum, it will need to submit a plan to the Minnesota Department of Education by mid-February.

Thank you for support of the Moose Lake Community School! n


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