1. Have you looked at other scenarios?
- We have looked at several scenarios including shuffling students into different grade configurations and into different buildings. The reality is that no matter what configuration we are in, 3 of our 4 facilities have deferred maintenance needs and would require renovation to accomplish any potential change in configuration. No matter what configuration we examined, all kept the current JSHS as a facility. It was felt that the best investment would be to “reset the clock” on this facility. Besides, there is no compelling reason, at this date, to reconfigure the district.
2. Why aren’t you investing more into Hartley?
- Everyone recognizes the positive feelings many in the community feel towards Hartley. It is a very warm and friendly environment for our primary students. However, most of this feeling is generated by the staff who have created this feeling, not the facility itself. If divorced from these feelings and we examine Hartley as a facility only, it has several significant drawbacks. The committee believes that the community should consider replacing Hartley in the future if enrollment remains as predicted in the next 15 years. Therefore, the committee wants to be prudent in how much is invested into a building that could be replaced “down the road”. In fact, one concept of financing this project would allow for this replacement with minimal future tax implications through something called step financing.
3. What is step financing?
- Step financing allows for a greater amount of the debt to be paid in the first 15 years of the bond to create a “step” in year 16-20. This would create the tax capacity to replace Hartley. Of course, this is out in the future. The context would need to be monitored. This is why the plan calls for a facility planning team to reconvene every 5 years to monitor the “context”. If at the end of 15 years the context remains as predicted, perhaps another bond levy could be put before the voters that, because of the step financing of this project, would have minimal impact on the voters.
4. Why aren’t you asking for less?
- The facilities, like homes, have needs. Outside contractors have conducted energy audits which have revealed that we have done an outstanding job of “picking the low hanging fruit” in deferred maintenance but the time has come for the more difficult decisions. Additionally, we have program needs to address. If we want to remain competitive as a School District and community, we need to address our needs.
5. Why aren’t you asking for more? Don’t we have more needs?
- We indeed have more needs but the community survey revealed $30 million as the most the community would consider supporting. We believe that by addressing this plan, we can address some of the unmet needs through annual facility dollars we get from the State of MN. Additionally, this is a long term plan, including the step financing and the potential replacement of Hartley in 15 years.
6. You refer to the community survey, what were the main messages from this?
- The survey revealed that Waseca residents have some of the highest levels of community support for their schools that the consultant has seen in the state. We also have among the highest levels of tax hostility as they have seen in the state as well. We saw the $30 million as a hard number. Also, there were six items they survey revealed that had broad support including safety, science lab updates, etc., all of which are included in the plan. Other items had little if any support (like an additional gym). We stayed away from these.
7. What do the tax implication statements mean?
- The preliminary statements are our financial consultant’s (Ehlers and Associates) best prediction of increased taxes on ASSESSED VALUE of property. Please remember the assessed value is usually less than what the property may be worth on the market. Now that the School Board decided to put a bond election on the ballot in November, we will create a link to a site (in the next week or so) where more accurate numbers based on the specific assessed value of property can be gathered.
8. Didn’t you ask for money just a couple of years ago?
Yes but that was for an operational levy. The State of MN funds the operations of schools (staff, materials, etc.) at a certain level. Districts have the option to ask the local tax payers. The community voted to approve a $700 per student operating levy. By law, districts are not allowed to use operating levies to fund capital projects. Capital projects must be supported by local taxpayers through a capital bond referendum. That is what we are asking for in November. One way to remember the difference between these two distinct elections is Operating Levies are for staff, supplies, etc and bonds are for buildings.
9. Why is the school district always asking for money? The city and the county never ask – what is the difference?
School Districts are the only governmental entities that are required to have elections when they need to address operational or facility needs. Cities and counties can do so without an election. This has changed slightly over the last two legislative sessions however. Now local school boards can assess up to $720 per student for operational costs. This basically means that the School Board will not need another election to maintain the current $700 per student operating levy. Additionally, new authority has been granted to local school boards for Long Term Facilities Maintenance beginning in 2019. Waseca Public Schools will be able to address future deferred maintenance needs through these dollars (currently estimated to be a total of $760,000 of which the State will pay 48%) that the new levy authority allows, beginning in 2019.
10. Why are you suggesting a November election?
Everyone expects an election in November, even though there is no general election this November. We want the community to be heard. As a home-owner is responsible for the condition of their home, the community is responsible for the condition of it’s collectively owned facilities. Delaying an election could jeopardize projects costs (they would more than likely go up) and interest rates. We believe the longer the delay, the more it will cost the taxpayer if passed.