SCC facilities task force evaluates needsThe St. Croix Central School District is taking a serious look at its facility needs for the future.
By: Gretta Stark, New Richmond News
The St. Croix Central School District is taking a serious look at its facility needs for the future.
Last fall, Wold Architects and Engineers completed a facility analysis of the St. Croix Central School District. On Feb. 8, the SCC facilities task force met at the elementary school to evaluate the building and discuss other district facility needs.
“Wold’s charge was to look to what it would take to bring all of our facilities to ‘near-new’ condition,” said SCC Superintendent David Bradley.
According to the Wold report, the total estimated cost to update the school facilities is $12.2 million, which doesn’t address additional program and technology needs in the district.
Bradley said when the board looked over the report, some individuals questioned whether some of the top priority items were necessary, or if they should be moved to a lower level priority.
“There’s many ways to address a mechanical system or boiler,” he said. “There comes a time when you stop repairing some things and you start replacing them. Everyone has a different opinion about that, so we wanted to get some other eyes to come and take a look at those things.”
Last year, Roberts resident Bob Albright proposed the district create a facilities task force to take a systematic look at the district’s facilities.
Wold Architect Vaughn Dierks suggested the district create a group made up of administration and local tradespeople to evaluate the building needs and make sure the highest priority items in the summary are actually important items in need of immediate attention.
“Dierks indicated that having local people, who have a background in the trades, gives voters a higher confidence level that what they are being asked to support at the ballot box is truly needed,” Bradley said.
The board approved creating a facilities task force to tour each of the buildings and re-evaluate each line item prioritized in the summary created by Wold.
On Feb. 8, about 14 tradespeople and task force members met to discuss facility needs, which followed with a tour of the interior and exterior of the elementary school — which is the building most in need of repairs and updates. Members of the task force include district administration and individuals with architectural, engineering, facilities management and construction backgrounds.
In the coming months the task force members will meet again to discuss their findings.
Bradley said the task force’s recommendations paired with the analysis from Wold will help the district decide whether it should ask taxpayers for a referendum in the next couple years.
“We need to address some of these needs in the near future and unfortunately St. Croix Central, and no school I know of, have the funds to do that in their general operating budget,” Bradley said. “So, my recommendation to the board will be sometime in the near future going to the voters and asking for a referendum to do some of the repairs.”
Bradley doesn’t foresee the district undergoing any major projects in the next year, but he says the district would need to notify the state of any referendum plans by July 18 (70 days before November election) if it would like to be included on the ballot this year.
“I will be recommending to the board that we go to referendum no later than the February 2013 spring primary,” Bradley said. “One of the reasons for that is that, once a referendum passes, it takes quite a while for the design plans and bids to be put together.”
Based on enrollment projections, Bradley believes there will be a need for additional classroom space in the district in 2016.
If the projections hold true, planning for the changes or additions would need to start in 2014, he said.
Bradley says it’s a good time to make improvements to the district facilities.
He says interest rates are at an all-time low for bonds and the district could save between $600,000 and $900,000 in interest over the next 12 years if it refinances some of its bonds.
Since the district made the last payment on one of its bonds in March, “there’s $800,000 that we no longer have to pay for bonded debt,” Bradley said. “So, with a referendum we could take that $800,000 and apply it to new debt. So that’s an opportunity for us to ease the pain of property tax increases.”
Bradley said the district is looking at all options to save the taxpayers money while ensuring students have safe learning environments. He welcomes resident’s suggestions, he said.
To become part of the facilities task force, or for more information related to the facility needs analysis, contact Bradley at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 715-796-2256, ext. 373.