School board discusses elementary addition

The possible expansion of Central Elementary School continued as an item of discussion for the District 108 School Board during its meeting on Monday, Nov. 26.

Board members have been discussing the potential project for months as a solution to increasing space needs at the school and to eliminate nearly $80,000 per year the district spends to lease space for preschool, Early Childhood Family Education, Kids Company childcare and office space for those programs.

Preliminary numbers show that a bond issue to pay for an expansion to the elementary would not increase taxes for most district taxpayers and would have a 10-15 year term instead of the ongoing cost to lease space.

Following the board’s regular business at its most recent meeting, Superintendent Brian Corlett asked the board whether it wanted to take steps toward the project or continue the discussion phase.

“I think you’d be hard-pressed to find someone against replacing the square footage that we’re currently leasing,” said Rich Schug, and the board agreed that the cost numbers were favorable toward pursuing the expansion.

Board chair Elroy Latzig said that through feedback he has received from the public to date, he believes most people are in favor of the project, though there have been questions about a large proposed gathering room that would have multiple uses.

“I’ve just heard positive so far,” he said.

Craig Pexa said that once the people has talked to about the project understand the intended uses for the gathering area, most are in favor of the roject.

The board mentioned that in addition to many possible uses for the large room, there would also be a new music room and a redesigned parking lot to improve safety as part of the project.

“We’ve been short of meeting space over there and this is a good spot for it. It’s a nice addition,” said Jim Spille.

The board also discussed holding a public meeting to gauge the public’s opinion on the matter. While many such meetings are not well attended, the board generally agreed that it would be beneficial to hold meetings in each city served by the district.

As for a timeline, the district will likely hold a vote on the expansion project next November along with the school board election and operating levy referendum to avoid the costs of holding separate elections. While the district is not required to hold a referendum on the expansion project because of the square footage involved, board members agreed that public approval should be sought.

“In general, I think the public has always responded to things when it comes to a need in our area. I think it’s just good business for us to offer that out there on a vote, and it seems like the public responds in kind. That’s just kind of how it has gone,” said Schug.

In wrapping up the discussion, the board agreed to have Corlett move ahead with submitting documents to the state for approval, and also agreed to actively seek out feedback from area residents at various school functions over the winter. Further decisions on moving forward could come at the board’s December meeting on Dec. 17.

In other business, the board:
• Heard a 2011-12 audit presentation from Craig Popenhagen of CliftonLarsonAllen.

“We’ve got some pretty good results to communicate here tonight,” said Popenhagen.

General fund revenue was $9,149,347, down from $9,506,402 in 2010-11. The major portion of that amount (77.1 percent) comes from state aid, and 15.3 percent comes from property taxes.

The district showed a deficit of about $1 million in the general fund cash balance, a result of short-term borrowing, and Corlett said there was no reason for panic over that number.

• Approved a two percent pay increase for office staff and an additional $750 to health savings accounts per year.

• Heard that an estimate to repair the high school track came in at about $26,000, roughly half was had been expected. Repairs could take place next summer.

• Heard that the school could be up and running as part of the new fiber optic ring around February or March.

• Agreed to hold the next meeting on Dec. 17 at 5:45 p.m. due to a music concert with a truth in taxation hearing at 6:15 p.m.