Mauston School Board Eyes November Referendum
During a special workshop meeting on Monday night, the Mauston School Board, administrators, and representatives from Bray Associates decided to pursue planning for a November referendum, which would make way in providing the funding for renovations and upgrades to buildings needed for re-configuring and moving classes. There have been eight options presented to the board, however it decided to talk about three of them: Options 5, 6, and 8. There was also talks about the preliminary budget work for each option. Bray Associate Clint Selle said there was a really strong sentiment that 7th and 8th graders should stay together and not be split up. Options 5 and 6 have that grade configuration.
In Option 5, both West Side Elementary and Lyndon Station Elementary would be closed. Early Childhood/Pre-Kindergarten through 3rd grade would be at Grayside Elementary; 4th-6th grade would be at Olson Middle School; and 7th-12th grade would be at the Mauston High School. In the elementary school, each of the grades is a 6-track, meaning there are six classrooms per grade level. The library would move to be the central part of the school. Bray tried to create flexible classrooms in the options it presented, but it wasn’t possible in Option 5 at the elementary level. There would be flexible classrooms at the middle school level. This plan would also relocate the District Office to the middle school. Selle said the biggest thing for the board and the administration was to weigh the pros and cons of each option, like did it make sense to replicate the district office in another building. He also said that there need to be a kitchen expansion at Olson and Grayside to accommodate the growth in the schools. At the high school, the idea is to utilize one of the classroom wings on the second floor for the 7th and 8th graders to minimize the amount of interaction between them and the high school students. There would need to be about eight classrooms total with an two classrooms designated for sciences on the first level. Selle said that the preliminary work budget would be about $8.7 million. This would would be for renovations as well as re-configuring the spaces in the schools.
Option 6 is similar to Option 5, in regards to the grade configuration of 7th-8th grade moving to the high school and the preliminary budget. Selle said the budget would be about $8.86 million. The plans for Grayside would have Early Childhood/Pre-K-2nd grade. The District office would remain in its current location, and the library would be in the central location. There are also flexible classrooms at the elementary level as well as at the middle school level. However, in this plan, all the kindergarten classes would be located in one level and the school lost some storage areas to create a corridor to keep the kindergarten classes like that. The band and art classrooms would be reduced in size and that is why the budget would close to what Option 5 is. At the middle school is where 3rd-6th grade would be housed with 3rd and 4th grade on the first floor and 5th and 6th grade would be on the second floor. There would also be kitchen expansion and upgrades for this option as well.
Option 8 was talked about briefly before it was decided that it wasn’t a option that the community would support. In this plan, Grayside Elementary would be an Early Childhood/Pre-K-4th grade building, with Olson Middle School having 5th-7th grade. This was the only option presented to the board on Monday night that had 7th and 8th grade separated with 7th grade staying at the middle school and the 8th grade moving to the high school. It also was the only option which required an addition to Grayside to accommodate the grade reconfigurations and renovations. It would cost about $11.4 million dollars. Board members brought up that the addition to Grayside made little sense since West Side and Lyndon Station would be closed and that they had other options that didn’t require an addition. They also felt that 7th and 8th grade should remain together, instead of splitting them up.
These options are just options and can be changed if something were to come up For example: Lyndon Station Elementary. Plans for the Lyndon Station Elementary have been put on hold since the district is waiting to see if the grant application for a new Montessori model charter school will be approved by the Department of Public Instruction. The district won’t know about the grant until possibly as late as August.
Bray Associate Matt Wolfert said that the board needed a contingency plan. He said that they would never encourage any school district to do any project as long as these options without a contingency plan. This is to protect the district just in case there were unseen conditions. The budgets are just preliminary as there are other factors to consider as the board moves forward. Out of all the these options, the earliest any change would happen would be the 2015-2016 school year.
The discussion then moved to referendums and how the district could possibly afford to go ahead with one of the many options presented to them. Wolfert said that the greatest potential for the district would be to do a 20 year borrow if the district decided to go to referendum. He said the district will be experiencing a drop off in debt that was associated with the last referendum that would occur partially in the 2019-2020 school year, with all of the debt falling off in the 2020-2021 school year. If the district wanted to go right to referendum right away, Wolfert said that the first five years there would be a rough increase of $1.37 per $1,000 in value, so $137 per $100,000 in property values. He said then that from that point on, from the 2020-2021 school year, a mil rate of $4.14 per debt would drop to $1.71 per debt. The school could take an increase early, do the projects now, and have the rate decrease after the 2020-2021 school year. Wolfert said that not many districts are in this position with the debt drop off from the last referendum, and these figures do assume that there might be a reduction in property values in the next four years.
There were several choices when it came to when should the referendum be put on the ballot. Wolfert said that the school could take advantage of the gubernatorial election turnout in November to have a good voice of the community to hear about the referendum. The downside is that the resolution date comes in the middle of August, which is only three months to have community engagement about the referendum. Another choice was the putting on the February 2015 primary election. Wolfert said that there would be a longer time to inform the community about the referendum, but if the referendum were to pass, construction would begin late and wouldn’t be complete in time for the start of the school year. The third choice that was brought up putting on the April 2015 election. Again, there would be time to layout the referendum for the community to be informed, but construction would begin late. Also, the board was concerned about the voter turnout. The board agreed to look into the November referendum.
Vice President Carrie Buss said that this does not mean that the district will move forward with the referendum, but to explore the option of it. The board must to come to a resolution by August if a November referendum is to be on the ballot.
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