4/13/2017 4:41:00 PM Facility upgrades, long deferred needs,
key projects along with annual tech levy
Voters in the North Branch School District 138 are being asked to cast a ballot May 23 on a bond issuance. The district seeks to borrow for a number of deferred and long term needs. It has been about 15 years since a local levy has passed for North Branch schools.
Often there’s a problem with voter turnout, for off-season balloting done outside the general election calendar, so North Branch School District is making a concerted effort to attract voters for its bond vote. (State laws require school bond referendums in May, which is why Chisago Lakes District 2144 is also holding its bond vote May 9.)
In North Branch the upcoming Sunrise River Elementary School Carnival is just one of the District’s remote sites where there will be voting opportunities. The district also provides for absentee balloting, which opened April 7. You can fill out a voter registration form and complete the three-question ballot in minutes, at the Area Education Center, 38705 Grand Avenue if you like. If you take an absentee ballot home, it must be returned to the district by May 23--so don’t forget if you are opting for U.S. mail.
The polling Tuesday, May 23 is in one location. The Area Education Center (old primary school) will be open from 7 a.m. until 8 p.m. May 23.
North Branch Superintendent Dr. Deb Henton commented in an interview last week that the district has not been getting much feedback yet on information circulating about the financing effort.
An informative video on the referendum (www.isd138. org/referendum) has been clicked on and viewed over 700 times. The district mailed a flyer and officials have given presentations at the North Branch Chamber and elsewhere in the district. If you have a civic group, or belong to a club that meets locally and want a presentation please call 674-1082 and ask for someone to present.
PUBLIC MEETING The public is invited to a meeting at the school board room Monday, April 24, starting at 5:30 p.m. This will explain items in the $65 million total bond referendum. The North Branch ballot consists of three questions and two of them are scheduled for a 25 year payoff.
The third question is not “debt.” It will be asking for authority to levy an annual $500,000 tax in the school district that voters would allow to run for 10 years. Question 3 will fund technology needs, at a cost of $4.08 per month based on a median house value in the district of $175,000. Properties valued on the lower end of the properties in the district pay less than the $4 per house and properties valued higher will pay more for this ley.
If all three questions are okayed and the full financing plan is implemented-- the tax impact for the $175,000 median home, is a little under $10 a month. You can click on a tax impact calculator on the school website for numbers for your parcel’s valuation and there is a direct e mail on the website to financial advisors Springsted Inc. if you have a specific question.
Dr. Henton said the district truly needs what it is requesting. North Branch has risers in the gym that are 40 years old. Air handling in the buildings needs updating. There is a need for security cameras and fire sprinkling.
These and more are funded from the approved Question 1 for $59 million.
The second ballot question regards mainly athletic facility needs. Physical activity is ever-changing as part of Minnesota student curriculum and the district needs to improve facilities for students in sports after-school and during school. Question 2 is for $10.9 million.
** The first ballot question must be approved to be funded or this second funding question can not be passed.
The district is basing needed projects on an intensive Facilities Task Force review that included members from the general public, staff and expert consultants. The failed referendum last yearalso looked at projects (athletic community facility, stadium plaza) that the public had concerns about and these have been set aside. The state is not expected to boost district funding by any substantial amount.
There is some equalization funding the legislature has been discussing for schools to assist with debt, but the North Branch District is only earmarked, thus far, according to the Governor’s office, for $471,658 over four years.
The legislature also has not given any consideration to the Governor’s proposals for Pre-K--which could send funds to North Branch-- only for the early educational program needs. The Governor’s Pre K plan would send $2.3 million to North Branch and the House and Senate GOP have proposed zero Pre-K added monies for North Branch.