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"After all these years, still doing a great job!!" -Ron Hermanson
School tax levy drops by $97 per $100,000
By Lynda Berg Olds
Luck District Administrator Cory Hinkel took to the podium Monday night to deliver his report at the Annual District Meeting. It was full of good news:
“Another great year here continuing our momentum moving forward. Our strategic plan has been put fully in place, something we have worked on from the beginning, focusing on our district mission:
“To achieve excellence by supporting and focusing on the needs of others to ensure the maximum potential of each individual.”
He commented that professional development has centered around the mission, discipline and technology. He also noted that the district was successful last year with the operational referendum and thanked the taxpayers for that.
“We've had a lot of other wonderful things happen to our district – the Frandsen Scholarships; new schedules in the middle school and high school – and the elementary; our 4K continues to be a success; the Child Care continues to have students and we've had some room movement; we've got additional technology such as our CNC machine and computers in the computer lab, and we implemented a salary structure for our teachers this year as well, that has been successful.
“Moving forward, we need to continue on our referendum for our building, making sure we are providing the best, positive learning environment for our students. Also, we are going to continue to explore a charter school concept for our district and look at different ways for health insurance to help maintain that cost – as that has a huge impact on our budget – and continue to give our students a well-rounded education that serves them going forward.”
Following that summary, Hinkel moved on to the budget, highlighting several items. First was an increase in the fund balance over last year, from $1,497,804 to $1,541,892, which he said was money saved from health insurance.
Hinkel pointed out state and federal revenue sources have gone up just slightly from the previous year, but overall revenue has gone down a bit because of local sources and how the revenue limits work.
Expenditures are also slightly down, but Luck is spending more money for special education than last year by $78,000, which is a direct correlation to the amount of special ed students Luck has.
Hinkel moved on to debt service and said the last payment for the building loan will be this year, which is why they are not levying for as much money. He said that loan payment is quite a bit lower for the last year and noted that the district has been paying extra on it.
The food service fund is running at a positive $6,000, which Hinkel attributed to not only good management, but also child care participants along with the summer food program.
As for the Community Education Fund, Hinkel said the amount of money coming and going has increased, what with the initial start-up costs of 'The Nest' Child Care to get the program up and running.
“After this year we will have a better understanding of where we are and how well the child care is actually doing. There is a slight increase in the levy for that – with added expenses for the child care and other possibilities of working with the playground for the child care and the weight room facility there as well.
“So our total expenditures are down about $500,000. Our proposed tax levy is down as well, about $300,000 from 2018-2019 (from $3,280,701 to $2,965,318. And in the end, it is dropping our mil rate .97, or $97 per $100,000 (in assessed property value). We are going from 10.0576 mil rate to 9.0907 mil rate.”
Thus, the resolution followed that the proposed annual budget be accepted and the tax levy be set at $2,965,318.
September 26, 2019
School, village looking to grow the Luck community
By Lynda Berg Olds
The Luck Plan Commission met with members of the Luck School Board and Superintendent Cory Hinkel Monday night. The meeting took place at the behest of the school and the single agenda item was “discussion regarding capital improvements and street uses.
Hinkel started things off, introducing board members Rick Palmer and Todd Roehm. He noted the recent referendum failed, with several community members opposing the construction of a parking lot on the field between 7th Street and the lake.
“Parking and safety has been a major issue as we have gone through this process. But a lot of people told us they did not want that green space used for a parking lot. What it doesn't do is help us with our congestion before and after school and at events with our parking lot area. Being proactive, we want to make sure if we do things with the referendum – or if there are other things that we can do with the village, we want to have that discussion. We want to make sure the village doesn't have any short-term or long-range plans of putting roads in – or doing something different, where it would look like we didn't work together. We want to find something that is useful for the district, and also for the village if things expand.”
Hinkel stressed that school parking is tight, noting anybody that has been there during pick-up and drop-off can see that it is not a very good flow of traffic.
“At games people park everywhere. It is just the way it is.”
Roehm spoke next, saying from his perspective, student safety is the most important thing at the end of the day.
“I think it is more than just the school's responsibility. I think it is kind of a village responsibility that we think about the safety of the kids who live in our community. If there is something we can do better...to hear someone say, 'Well, nothing has ever happened there yet...' It doesn't take much to go down there and see that it is unsafe in the mornings. You guys have been helpful with Monte and Seth (Police Chief and Public Works Director) helping to get the road closed in the mornings – but we can do more, we can do better. I don't think it should take an accident or something happening to a kid – for us to all get together and say, 'hey, we maybe should have done something different with that parking lot a long time ago...to work together with the village on a good, long-range plan to get access to that parking lot to the school.”
Village and Plan Commission President Dave Rasmussen commented that he knows this is not a new development.
“It has been like this for many, many years and at one time when we did our Comprehensive Plan over 10 years ago, we were looking at some possibilities with the school properties and trying to get a road through there, past the nursing home and bypass that street (7th Street) as much as possible, maybe even dead-ending at the Pedersen home (just south of the parking lot).”
Rasmussen said that was part of the long-range plan, as was the possibility of a housing subdivision, for which Cedar Corporation drew up plans. Rasmussen also noted that Luck, along with the county and seven other municipalities are participating in a comprehensive housing study right now. Luck is a sponsor and will receive an individual plan.
“With that housing study, maybe we can look at this again in terms of getting a street through there and killing two birds with one stone – the traffic issue and bringing in some housing.”
Palmer (former Luck School Superintendent) said, “I think that is why we are here. The options that we have are pretty limited on our own as far as a roadway or whatever. When Cedar Corp drew that up 10 or 11 years ago, you guys were talking about doing a sewer and water loop so you didn't have a dead end. I think now could be the time for more discussion. We looked at property you owned, we talked about doing a property switch, because if we were to sell that property to the village, then that income basically goes against the school's revenue. It is not beneficial, it hurts the school district to do that, so maybe there is some other property we can look at and do some bartering and come up with a plan together. Maybe it is time to have that discussion again.”
Rasmussen asked the school contingent if they had alternate plans for another parking lot and Hinkel responded that they are really limited with the street and lake.
“We have looked at the possibility of putting a road out to Fourth Street back through our field and coming out that way to alleviate traffic a little bit, but doing that – and then if you guys were putting a road in, that wouldn't make any sense.”
Palmer asked Rasmussen about the housing study and he said there will be a forum in December and the study may be complete by as early as next spring, which would help with some of the planning.
“One of our goals would be to provide more opportunities for people to move to town – to increase our enrollment at the school. Cory is working on a grant to be a magnet tech-ed school. With the Frandsen grants and scholarships I think it is just an ideal time for us to tie in something like that, which might open up some other avenues for other businesses who might be interested in coming to town – with more housing necessary. I'm not a housing market person. I don't know if there are enough homes in town now for people. Do we need to be looking for housing as an opportunity to draw people to town?”
Rasmussen said that is part of the study that is going on and asked how many teachers live in Luck.
Hinkel said the younger ones want to.
“They want to find a decent house at a decent price. To find that they have gone to St. Croix Falls and Balsam Lake. A few of them do. The ones that we have been hiring lately have been trying to stay in Luck.”
Plan Commission member Nick Piszczek asked what the school would like to see ideally.
Hinkel said he thinks that road through the back.
“Something to alleviate the congestion and shut down that road where are main parking lot – or get our kids out of that parking lot. We have three factions that come in there: We have the buses coming in and out to drop off, we have the parents coming in and dropping off and then we have the students exiting the parking lot – all trying to occur at the same time.”
Piszczek agreed it is a cluster.
“If we could alleviate one of those and not have them all happening in the same area...that's where we talked about having the students exit thought the field and back out on to Fourth Street.”
Roehm chimed in with:
“Right now the best case scenario that goes on there – right now – is that almost every drop-off person drives in front of the school twice. That is not ideal. We are sending every piece of traffic that goes through that at a busy time – twice. So your potential of a accident doubles, then you have the kids driving through there. Every single kid that drives goes through the same drop-off zone at least once. So if you couldn't get out on to Seventh Street and you had to come in from a back way, I think we would save a ton of traffic from intersecting with students walking across the road.”
Palmer noted there are also a lot of folks who go past there to use the cut across to go to Balsam Lake. Plus the golfers and fishermen – and residents.”
Trustee Mike Miller was present and he asked why so many many parents were dropping off and picking up their kids.
Open enrollment accounted for a big part of the answer as 40 or 50 kids live outside of the district where the bus does not go. Also, Roehm said for him it is a personal choice. He doesn't like his kids to sit on a bus that long – and he is going to work anyway.
The upshot of the deal is these talks are going to be continuing between the school and the village. They are determined to work together. At one point Rasmussen commented that the school owns the only real feasible property there is for the village to expand. There was more discussion about the subdivision and what that would/could look like. It would basically be in the field east of United Pioneer Home. Water looping could also be done – as “dead end” water is less than desirable.
One thing is crystal clear – there is change afoot (possible growth!), and both the village and school have the best interest of the community at heart.
October 3, 2019
Small tax increase likely in Milltown
By Lynda Berg Olds
Prior to the regular meeting of the Milltown Village Board on Monday night they held their budget meeting with CliftonLarsonAllen's April Anderson.
The proposed budget shows just a one percent increase and water rates are going up. Last year the increase was just under two percent and prior to that the number was historically three percent. Village President LuAnn White said in terms of the mil rate, Milltown has one of the highest. The board does an admirable job of trying to hold the line, but when all was said and done at Monday night's meeting, the projected increase to taxpayers was estimated at about $12 per $100,000 of assessed property value.
“If we do everything this tells us to do, next year we are going to have quite a time,” stated White. “That's the dilemma.”
It should be noted there was no vote on this as of yet. There is still time. It was simply information for the board to digest, but said information was based on sound principals.
Anderson said, “I think you are set well to do it this year. These expenditures are all operating ones, not necessarily capital ones. They are not one-time expenditures, so the increase in this expense would continue, if not increase more.”
Anderson said the library fund was the next item up for discussion, just the operating piece of it and not anything to do with the capital building project going on. She indicated that levy was proposed to stay the same.
Libraries are (more or less) autonomous when it comes to budgets as they (more or less) govern themselves. Anderson turned the floor over to Library Director Bonnie Carl.
“The proposed budget is slightly higher than 2019. In fact, we are asking for exactly the same amount as we did last year. We are aware of our outstanding debt for the building, so we want to be cognizant of that and very conservative in asking for money – so we stayed at where we were at. We did get an increase from the county who bumped up ACT 150 monies to 90 percent.
“We did increase our building maintenance and furnishing. We are going to add a cleaning service to our expenses as we have quite a bit bigger building and elderly staff so we need to make sure we have a clean building. We are also increasing some of our education for conferences to get on top of that, which also includes expenses for meals and mileage. We did keep our technology low because we are hoping to get grants to pay for some of that. And for the wages, we stuck with the three percent increase.”
Anderson said, “It is $79,000 added in to the $297,000 that we show in the general fund at this point in time and then added in to some of the next couple of pieces will get you to your overall levy for the village.”
Next came the debt service.
“The debt service increased quite a bit with $84,000 coming due in principal and interest in 2020. This is taking into consideration the library paying 50 percent – of their portion of that debt service...then you get down to what you can potentially add to your levy. You do have room to increase the levy if you wanted to – more than the one percent that we are showing. We are just trying to work with all the different pieces coming together.”
Anderson moved on to the Capital Project Fund.
“This is where you have worked things into this fund with the available capacity that you had in the levy. The expenditure side of things – the loader is a given that you have to make that payment. The rest of them, the chop sealing, lawn mowing, skidsteer – are all ones that you've levied for over a couple of years so that you could replace it on a rotation. The available capital improvements show what is left that you have to consider.
“In the end, we are utilizing some of the general fund, the $41,000 available fund balance.”
Clerk/Treasurer Amy Albrecht wondered if there were any other scenarios the trustees wanted Anderson to work out. Trustee Joe Castellano said no.
Anderson noted the village's net new construction number was low at .007 and there is a 1.89 percent allowable increase, which falls within the levy revenue limit formula. She also urged the board to consider sustainability going forward with increase.
October 17, 2019
The Beer Tree must be “the best ever”
By Lynda Berg Olds
The meeting of the Luck Golf Commission on Monday didn't come to pass for lack of a quorum, but the Enterprise/Ledger Press spoke at length with Course Superintendent Kevin Clunis with regards to the agenda items, primarily the proposed budget.
Although rounds were down this year, that became evident early on with the constant deluge, allowing for the proverbial belt to be tightened expenses-wise, thus contributing less impact to the bottom line. In fact, total revenue exceeded last year by about $75,000, but $65,000 of that number came in form of insurance reimbursement for storm damage.
The “Public Charges for Services” (PCFS), which is what revenues are called at the Luck Municipal Golf Course for 2019, amount to $460,302, compared to $472,928 last year. And the conservative estimate for next year is $466,500.
The course has a nice cushion from the three-year memberships, whose revenue rightly gets spread out over the three years. Right now, those golf “savings” sit just shy of $140,000, $60,000 of which stays in reserve, $20,000 of which is earmarked for capital equipment, and for 2020, there is $59,000 for tree replacement.
The IGCFS (Intergovernmental Charges for Services) for 2019 includes the insurance for property damage, donations and the sale of some golf course property (old equipment sold). That amount for 2019 is $109,794, which is added to the $460,302, for the total 2019 revenue of $570,096. Donations were $34,000 and equipment sold, about $7,500.
Clunis said, “I have done a little tweaking on the proposed budget since last month. The capital budget line is down a bit but the building maintenance budget went up to accommodate a few more projects. There were nine trees planted last week and another 10 next week - including the new Beer Tree!”
But with the current rain, the beer tree might not get planted for a bit as no one wants to see any damage done to the course in the process. But the Balsam Fir is supposed to be a real beauty. Clunis only half-joke that this is how he will be remembered, so the tree has to be “the best tree ever.” He has been guaranteed by Willow River Tree Service that the tree has been selected - and is perfect, but he is still reserving the right to see for himself.
There are several project ideas in the offing, most importantly Phase II of the 10th Tee Project, which is a major renovation with a price tag of about $22,000. To finish all the Tee Signs will cost about $4,200; and to replace the fence at the end of the range will be $1,200 – as will fencing along the North side of the range (another $1,200).
The wish list in the Maintenance Area is a bit more spendy. Lights in the building will be about $700, renovating the cart storage building will cost about $4,100; asphalt in the third and fourth bays will cost about $10,000, as will asphalt for the south side of the building. Asphalt prices have been on the rise for some time...with no end in site.
There are any number of Building Maintenance items for the Clubhouse (14 to be exact), so it remains to be seen what all will be accomplished for the 2020 season.
Dining numbers were down this year in the Clubhouse as the kitchen wasn't open nearly as much and liquor sales were down as well. The Course received a check from the Clubhouse, as per agreement, for $6,000 and it was noted that they would like it to be earmarked for needed range equipment replacement.
October 24, 2019
Final levy to taxpayers decreases
By Lynda Berg Olds
In the Sept. 26 issue of the Enterprise Press, following the Annual Meeting of the Luck Board of Education, Superintendent Cory Hinkel was quoted, stating:
“Our proposed tax levy is down about $300,000 from 2018-2019 (from $3,280,701 to $2,965,318). And in the end, it is dropping our mil rate .97, or $97 per $100,000 (in assessed property value). We are going from 10.0576 mil rate to 9.0907 mil rate.”
Thus, the resolution followed that the proposed annual budget be accepted and the tax levy be set at $2,965,318.
However, the numbers given at the annual meeting are just projections as the final numbers from the state do not come out until mid-October. At Monday night's meeting of the Luck School Board, it was learned that equalized value went up more than projected. Thus, the mill rate is dropping from that 10.05 number to 8.938 – a bit more of a boon to taxpayers, who will now pay $89 per $100,000 of assessed property value.
The final tax levy and corresponding budget was approved by the board then, and went from $2,965,318 to $3,030,007 - so the total tax levy went up, but the mil rate went down, yielding a net savings to the taxpayer over last year of over $100 (for the school portion of property taxes).
October 31, 2019
Referendum content up in the air
By Lynda Berg Olds
Luck School hosted a Community Dinner prior to a Referendum Forum/Focus Group on Monday night. While a better turnout was hoped for, there was some good discussion. Superintendent Cory Hinkel said Tuesday morning, “I appreciate the people that showed up to voice their concerns and comments, but wish more people would show interest to help steer the decision-making process.”
Indeed he opened the meeting imploring, “We really do want to hear from you – what you want for our direction.”
Hinkel briefly gave an overview before turning the meeting over to Board of Education President Jacob Jensen. He noted they would discuss potential project areas and tax impact, which would be followed by the group discussion. He also introduced the school board members, who were all in attendance, as well as Luke Schultz, the facilities consultant from CESA 10, who has been working with the school board and administration helping them through the referendum process.
Jensen informed those gathered “how we got here.”
“We did a facilities audit in July of 2018 with the help of CESA 10. They went through our building with our facilities staff and their staff and identified a number of maintenance upgrades that need to occur. After that we developed a community survey and worked through that as a board – and went through the maintenance needs and identified priorities.
“Truly, I think it is important to note that through this process we pared down that initial list they brought to us and took away everything that we felt was not absolutely necessary. We took away anything we felt was fluff and that didn't directly impact our students...we only brought to referendum things that we thought were absolutely necessary for our district to survive. Oftentimes, school districts will present a large referendum first, shooting for the moon – and come back with a much smaller number – in the hopes that the community will pass that easily. We did not do that. We went to our voting public with absolutely what we needed.”
Jensen observed they then went through the whole ($9.5 million capital referendum) process, which failed last spring by a very narrow margin.
“What we have found through community surveys and discussion is there were some topics within the referendum that maybe caused it to fail – like the parking lot. Another one was the addition of the Wellness Center – and using green space for it, and the necessity, the actual need to address safety concerns. Those were the issues we found that were the hot button items that caused the referendum not to pass this past spring.”
One gentlemen wanted to know if all the board members and staff were 100 percent in favor of the whole referendum package.
Jensen said that at this particular moment they don't know what the package is.
“What does the school board want to see individually or as a whole?”
“We want to hear what the community is interested in and what their focus is,” replied Jensen.
Hinkel jumped in and said it ties in to what they need.
“We have deferred maintenance. The Elementary gym, the auditorium area, needs work. There's also that possibility of additional gym space. Is that something that was needed? One things that came out of this process was in the area of career and tech ed and improvements to our shop area with the possibility of hiring a shop teacher and really increasing that area into something that we can be truly proud of. We currently have a tech ed program that does fairly well but it is a 50/50 split and there is a lot of FFA stuff with it – and it is a lot for one person to handle. So what can we do to increase that [tech ed education]?”
Hinkel then went through the list of potential project areas, starting with exterior maintenance such as reseal/crack fill/patch parking lots and athletic tracks; concrete repair of sidewalks and tuckpointing.
Then came career and tech ed improvements including Family and Consumer Education (FACE) room renovations; tech ed and metals shop renovations and updating the greenhouse.
This was followed by a number of various classroom updates with items like moving from chalkboards to whiteboards, flexible seating, etc. The bathrooms also need to be brought up to ADA standards and the staff restroom to a unisex restroom. There were also other technology updates included as well as renovations to the locker rooms, weight room, district office, and concession stand.
Finally, came the Elementary Gym/Auditorium, which is in dire need of an updated stage floor, curtains, lights and gym floor.
Hinkel pointed out that last year there were 30 grads, with 26 of them going on to tech school, largely due to Dennis Frandsen who provided scholarships, but the point was tech school is being widely utilized.
“Those are all areas that have a potential impact of about $5.5 million. Then, if we look at other options – and these are things we really want input on from the community – going to a recurring referendum (in perpetuity) for $200,000. The point of that would be to be able to afford a tech ed teacher. Tech ed teachers are hard to find. There's six graduating this semester at Stout and I think another five in the spring. To get one of those teachers to run a successful shop program, you also need to have the equipment and supplies. There's a lot of things that go along with that. Also, with the recurring referendum is to address some safety concerns, with crossing guards, etc.”
Hinkel pointed out that when a referendum is for something in particular, monies can only be spent from it on said particulars.
So the next thing to address was the other $4.2 million option, which would bring the referendum up to $9.7 million.
“Then also the idea of that gym space. Adding that gym out on the end (towards the bus garage, more or less). Basically setting it there with two entrances and maybe a little lobby. Nothing over the top with that. So those are the areas that the board has been looking at. If we do that, the main thing people want to know is what is the tax impact.
“The mil rate last year was 10.05. This current year, it has dropped to 8.9 due to a number of factors including equalized value going up over three percent.”
Hinkel cautioned that individual taxes may look different say if their value went up substantially. He provided the following mill rates: It would be $9.56 for the $5.5 million referendum and $10.47 for the $9.7 million referendum. The $200,000 operational referendum would amount to an additional $0.58.
The discussion that followed was more or less all over the map. All input is perceived as good input insofar as to help provide direction to the school board on how the referendum questions should read. Only two referendum questions are allowed – and the lawyers write them with their legalese to conform with state statutes.
The school board is meeting (has met) on Nov. 13 to hash out what they got out of this community forum. The Enterprise Press will endeavor to sort it all out for next week's paper.
November 14, 2019
High hopes for $9.85 million referendum
By Lynda Berg Olds
On the heels of the Referendum Forum/Focus Group (and dinner) hosted for the Luck Community by the Luck School Board and administration on Nov. 11, the board met again directly after for a special meeting on Nov. 13. Superintendent Cory Hinkel, who had stressed to the board previously that he wanted to meet with them as soon as possible after the Forum while information and impressions were fresh on their minds, began the meeting.
“I made a guideline of questions that we need to address going forward. Do we want to go to referendum is the first question. And I have each of the three areas separated. We can start with deferred maintenance, then jump to the gym and then finally, the operational referendum – depending on what we want to do.
“There are some big things under those topics. I am assuming we are going to referendum and you all want to do something at least?”
This was met by a general chorus of agreement among the school board members.
“As we look at the deferred maintenance question and the scope of $5.5 million, from what we heard at the meeting the other night is there anything that we need to cut or add?”
Board member Rick Palmer observed that the number - $300,000 for the greenhouse – was no longer listed.
“The greenhouse was a huge amount,” Hinkel began. “That is something where we could just stay with the status quo.”
Palmer stated, “It came back to me that the only reason we want a greenhouse is so retired teachers can keep the flowers over winter.”
School Board member Sarah Cook noted that they had discussed cutting that $300,000 number down significantly.
“We cut it down to $300,000,” clarified Hinkel. “It was way higher,” he said. In addressing Palmer's remark, he stated, “That may have been the case three years ago. It is not the case anymore.”
“And that's what I told him, that I would ask tonight, but I'm sure it is not that,” Palmer said.
“Right now they are growing poinsettias in there to sell for the season – and there are Easter lilys in there and the school garden stuff. It is getting utilized way more. There may be a few house plants that people keep in there, but that's not the only thing in there.”
Palmer then shared that he was “100 percent on board” with all of the deferred maintenance that Hinkel and the board had talked about.
“So with the deferred maintenance – that is something we pretty much feel we need to go with.”
Again that statement was met with general assent.
The next big question was with regards to the gymnasium.
“I guess I liked what I heard the other night,” declared Palmer. “I thought it was very well supported...I would be much more of an advocate for that gym if we could also add the auditorium aspect in there.”
“I have that as part of one of those – for after we decide if we want a gym or not,” stated Hinkel, who then commented that in speaking with the CESA buildings facilitator, it was noted the voting public is in the 65+ category age-wise.
“And the farmers,” put in Palmer. “What a heard from a farmer in Laketown was, 'Why do we want to build something for those town kids.”
Palmer said he actually heard that comment from a few folks – that Laketown farmers don't want to build something for the town kids. “At that time farmland was being taxed at a pretty iffy rate.”
Hinkel wanted to know if that was because of the Wellness Center and Palmer said, “No, this was 15 years ago, but that is kind of the attitude of some of the Laketown people, is that, 'We're farmers and we're not going to support those town kids.' Laketown killed us last time.” [Meaning got the referendum defeated, which was by a very narrow margin of about 30 votes – mostly, evidently, from Laketown.]
“I tend to disagree a little bit,” stated board member Todd Roehm. “That was Luke's [Luke Schultz of CESA] perspective. There were a number of people at the Forum that I would say were 60ish years-old. And of those, there were a number of them that spoke...and I would say that more spoke up in favor than against [the referendum.] And we did these meetings to get an opinion from the public. If you had an opinion that was different than that, you should have been there that night to help.”
Board member Amy Dueholm observed that there were a couple of folks there that she thought were 'no' votes, but they did not speak up.
“That's not my fault,” Roehm lamented. “Here's where I'm at when it comes to whole gym thing and the auditorium. I am 100 percent in. I don't even need to really sit here and talk about it. I am 100 percent in on it and I think the auditorium should be a part of it. My opinion is we should decrease the greenhouse number and spend it on the auditorium. I think it would make a huge difference.”
Palmer stated, “I have exactly the same thought.”
Cook stated, “I think we still need to put quite a bit into the greenhouse. And I think the auditorium needs to be first and foremost. I actually talked to two families, who know of other families - if we actually have a performing arts center they would open enroll their kids from Frederic into Luck. So I think that needs to be a huge focus point.”
Palmer tended to agree. “I think enough of a focus point that it detracts from the gym a little bit.”
“Right,” Cook said.
“Here's my take,” Roehm began. “I don't know if what Sarah said is true, I'll be totally honest. I don't think there is a single kid who is going to open enroll here because we have a greenhouse.”
“No,” agreed Cook, “But an auditorium, totally.”
“That's what I'm saying,” Roehm stressed. “If we have to make a decision between the two, I'm spending $330,000 on an auditorium long before I spend $330,000 on a greenhouse.”
Palmer said he just doesn't understand spending so much money on a greenhouse.
“That greenhouse that is there cost $25,000.”
School Board President Jacob Jensen observed that if they spent [just] $100,000 on the greenhouse, they could improve it significantly.
Hinkel noted the auditorium seating is $300,000, so that may need to be a wash if you want to stay at $9.7 [million]. Or, you could go up to an even $10 million. Back to this though, so we do want a gym from what I am hearing - I have heard from three [of the five board members]. The gym is going to be included.”
“We had to change 15 people's mind last time,” stated Palmer. “And I bet we lost that many at least with the parking lot. At least.”
Bringing it back, Hinkel said, “Then, some things with the gym. Do we want to use the FEMA grant? Do we want to have that investment into the FEMA grant and handcuff ourselves into a dome structure? If we do a traditional structure it has to be built to a higher standard. It has to be able to withstand an E5 tornado.”
“Dueholm said she didn't think a dome would fly in Luck.
Jensen said, “Although it's a great idea, I'm afraid that the dome structure, and maybe my mind needs to be changed, but when I think of a dome structure I think of a white globe...maybe it could be blue and green...”
Hinkel said it would be over a 12-inch concrete wall dome, with windows and looking modern. But expressed concern that even with pictures out there for the public, it is hard to get past the perception, what people think when they hear 'dome.'
“I want to throw that out there as an option but I don't know. I think you might be right, that it might hinder, deter people from where we were.”
“Would a traditional structure cost $1.5 million more to make it, so then we wouldn't gain anything?” queried Jensen, getting to the crux of the matter.
“So then we wouldn't be gaining anything,” concurred Hinkel.
“Just to clarify,” began Roehm, “To do a normal-looking structure that meets the requirement of the FEMA grant, we believe it would add cost to the structure, but we don't know the amount?”
Hinkel said no, they don't know the amount. “But I would be very confident that if you are going to have your roof withstand an E5 tornado, you are going to have to put a little bit more money than what we currently have.”
“To do our due diligence, I think we should ask an architect what they think it would take to add to the building from a financial standpoint, to make it maybe meet the FEMA grant. I think we owe it to our public to say we tried,” said Roehm. “I'd like to know.”
Palmer concurred and added, “One thing we haven't explored that usually helps sell something is energy efficiency like solar power. Have we thought at all yet, if we do build a regular gym structure, about maybe putting up solar panels on the roof? I am saying that helps sell projects sometimes if you can say the solar power will generate x, y, z efficiencies. It is something to think about. We didn't have any trouble with our other energy projects here...you were talking about due diligence Todd...”
Roehm did think it is proper to do the due diligence, noting much has been done already, but said, “I agree, I don't think you put a dome off of a square building – and people are going be like, 'Well that looks awesome [not].'”
Jensen noted there will be pretty good southern exposure in the building itself.
Board members agreed that it has to be two courts in the gym. Jensen wasn't too keen that the football team, which was headed to State at that time, didn't have a place to practice as the gym times are so booked up.
Hinkel wasted no time and went and made a call about the FEMA grant and he came back and said it could also be used for the locker rooms, which could be added more easily by the architects, depending on if the grant was received.
“We could use that grant money for is to make things tornado-proof, compatible for the grant. So you could have your lobby and locker room areas built to that standard. You could add additional space with that money. It may be where our drawings are with the gym the way we want, but then also if we get the grant money, we are adding on locker rooms on the back side.”
“So the gym doesn't necessarily have to be tornado-proof?” asked Dueholm.
“Just something within the scope, we could use it for whatever. It probably would not be cost-effective to remodel something, we would be better off just building it to spec right away.”
Discussion ensued about the locker rooms and different configurations and the board agreed that minimal is better with the priority rather on more classroom space.
High School Principal Brad Werner noted that basketball teams use the locker rooms, while volleyball girls use the bathroom.
“I don't pretend to understand,” he said.
The board members became animated with various possibility-thinking and much free-form discussion took place.
With the new gym it was decided they don't need a lot of seating, just a place to practice and play.
“Alright,” said Hinkel, “two courts, minimal seating, enough though, we have to have enough for JV. Enough, but nothing fancy. As for lobbies and locker rooms, that may be contingent on the grant as an addition. So we will tell the architects, we want that to be something that if we don't get the grant, it is easily not part of it. So I don't know how that looks but we can have the architects work on that. There is going to be a small lobby no matter what and we are going to have access to that gym from both exits so you can come in from both ends – but I wonder do we plan on those locker rooms getting remodeled no matter what in case it [the grant] doesn't happen.”
Jensen said, “Another thing we could do is if we get locker rooms, then all of a sudden we just blow the walls out of those areas, fill in the plumbing and that becomes your weight room. Then we gain three classrooms here in the center of our building.”
“Saving the space for classrooms makes more sense from a public, logical perspective,” said Roehm, adding, “Maybe we leave the locker rooms in the scope of the $5.5 million referendum and we do a locker room that is tornado sound.”
“From what I heard earlier, the auditorium seating needs to happen if we are going to do the gym,” stated Hinkel.
Nods all around.
“Now do you want us to look at the greenhouse or different areas? Keep it at $9.7 million? Are you comfortable going up to $10 million if need be? I will get some more exact numbers.”
“Do we want to do the operational referendum?” asked Hinkel.
Again, yes all around. It is about safety and tech ed primarily.
Hinkel added a word of caution. “You heard that people still thought we were doing a walking track the last go round. When you add a second question, it muddles people's minds. I heard people thought they could not vote yes on both. They thought it was either/or – and they vote for the lesser one because of that. Secondly, we only get two [referendum] questions per year. We are in a presidential election year, so we can go in November for the operational referendum. If we use them both, then we are sitting back at this table waiting until April.”
Roehm said he was a firm believer of asking one question, getting the [tech] site ready to go, and then filling the seats.
“I don't agree,” stated Jensen. “I don't think we can get the site ready with the current staff we have in place. I don't think we can create the program. I think we have a lot of what we need already in place to start building that program – and that just pushes it out in terms of becoming effective. This work isn't going to happen until 2022. Then you wait a year after that...”
The conversation swirled after that as to what indeed would be the best thing to do. One question or two?
Palmer said he would not want an architect to tell them what their tech ed program was going to look like.
“I think I would want input from the teacher and a whole lot of other people before I start re-doing the space and then try to hire somebody to fit the program, instead of building the program around someone you've got.”
Palmer was in favor of having both questions on the referendum.
Jensen said the only way he would support asking just the one question, is if they figure out a way to say, “We are coming back in November for $200,000. One-hundred percent that we are coming back at that time. I want to see this happen. To me, it is more important, well, the gym is important I think, but that, and putting that together and getting a potential charter school together, is more impactful for our district and our school than any of this other stuff.”
“We also want to show Mr. Frandsen commitment on our part,” stated Palmer.
“I want us to have a clear vision going forward.,” stated Hinkel. “I don't understand how people don't understand the voting process.”
Jensen conceded it was more than once that it came up that people were confused by the ballot, so he decided he was okay with just the one question.
“We will publicly announce that we are coming back in November,” stated Jensen. Those were his terms and the board concurred.
“I am looking for direction from you guys and I will do whatever you want me to do,” stated Hinkel. “I will be there. I want to be deliberate about the process.”
So one question it is for the spring ballot, which requires legal services to comply with state law. At the end of this meeting the number was $5.5 million in deferred maintenance and $4.2 million for the gym.
The mil (tax) rate last year was 10.05. This current year, it has dropped to 8.9 due to a number of factors, including equalized value going up over three percent. For the $9.7 million referendum the mil rate will be $10.47.
However, by the “regular” school board meeting on Nov. 18, it came to pass that the exact cost of the telescopic bleachers for the auditorium came in higher than anticipated, bringing the total referendum question to $9.85 million, at the minimal additional expense of about $3 per year for taxpayers per $100,000 of assessed value.
November 27, 2019