Public meeting on school construction project at Hancock School
Supt. Jerry Martinson opened the meeting by giving a run-down of how the school board came to this decision. He explained that the board had been considering replacing the 1928 high school building in five years when a current referendum would expire. However, increasing enrollment and special education needs, as well as the demand for more computer use, has led to a shortage of classroom space at the school. The staff and board have gone through every inch of the school to put it to use but are still coming up short on space.
Board chairman Barry Nelson also welcomed those in attendance and broke down the referendum issue a bit more. He explained that the $5.4 million dollar project would include an addition of six classrooms with an elevator, total renovation of the 1928 high school building, roof repair on three parts of the facility and badly needed repairs and upgrades in the 1960 building.
He added that the meeting would be broken up into three segments. The first portion would be a presentation by I & S Group, the architecture firm hired by the board, who would explain the design and work that would be done at the school. The second part would be by ICS Construction Manage-ment, the contractors approved for the project who would explain the construction process. The final portion would be by Sprinsted Inc. for the tax impact information.
I & S Group
Architects from I & S Group presented hand-outs and had large displays showing the proposed design and areas of improvement. The two- story addition would be placed where the current playground is and abut the cafeteria. There would be a hallway and restrooms on each level with classrooms on the east side of the hallway. An elevator would be installed making the upper level accessible. The plan would be for the lower level to be used by upper elementary grades and the upper level for high school classrooms including a larger room for a computer lab.
The current high school building would be basically stripped down to the bare bones. New windows, wall covering and flooring would be installed. Walls would be moved to make classroom sizes consistent with regulations at about 900 sq. ft. The upper floor would have six classrooms and the lower level three plus rest rooms and the existing storage areas. The shop would see some upgrades and a new roof.
The science room would get a total make-over. Throughout the building, there would be better and more efficient lighting plus improved air exchange and energy efficient doors and windows.
In the 1960 addition, one corner has had some settling problems which would be repaired. Windows, casings, doors and wall coverings would be updated. The bathrooms would get new fixtures and hallway tiles would be replaced. Accessibility issues in the locker rooms would be improved. The roof replacement would be done on the gym and portions of the 60s addition.
One question asked during this presentation was about enrollment. It was asked if the increase was only due to open enrollees. Martinson explained that it is the result of both open enrollment and new families moving into the district. It was pointed out that the three smallest classes in the school will be graduating over the next three years and the classes coming in are nearly double in size. There is also an increasing need for special education and more spaceis needed for this service. Currently some special ed sessions are held in hallways or storage rooms.
The construction company then explained that their intent would be to start the new construction as soon as possible in the spring, possibly March. The goal is to have the entire new build, repurpose and update done by the start of the school year so all facilities would be available for use in September.
There was a question about the playground equipment and the safety of students crossing the road to get to the new site. The board plans to look into options to close off the road during school hours if possible.
The focus then turned to the tax impact of the $5.4 million dollar project. Patty Heminover of Springsted started out by explaining that the board recently refinanced a current bond that would expire in six years. This refinancing resulted in a savings that would reflect on tax statements.
She added that they have structured the new bond to wrap around current bond and levy payments. This would mean that for the first six years, interest only would be paid on the new bond, until the existing bond was paid off. At that time, both interest and principal would be paid. The new formula was based on 20 years in order to receive equalization money from the state.
Through the refinancing, it was learned that the Hancock School District has a very good credit rating of A1. This makes the bonds appealing to companies looking at purchasing them and should bring a low interest rate. She added that the interest rates are historically low right now making this the perfect time for doing a project such as this.
She then reviewed the tax impact stating that after figuring in the savings from the refinancing, a $100,000 home would see an increase of $47 per year in taxes. The tables on page 5 also show the increases for commercial, apartments, seasonal, agriculture homestead and non-homesteaded agricultural land. One question was to clarify the tax impact on the non-homestead agriculture land. The tax increase would affect all acres not just the dwelling, garage and one acre. This is because this is a bond instead of an operating levy, so all acreage would see a tax increase.
The increase would range on average from $3-5 per acre depending on homestead or non-homestead. For example, 80 acres of non-homestead land would increase $261 per year. One opinion voiced was that this increase was very reasonable when it came to the benefits for the children.
It was noted that if the bond referendum does not pass, the district will still have to do many of the repairs such as the roof work and repairs in the 1960 classrooms. The money for this would then have to be obtained in other ways such as loans or from capital funds. This would take away money that could be used on the education of the children. No matter what, something will need to be done in the next five years and the interest rates are prime right now.
In conclusion, the board explained that this may hit the farming community hard but pointed out that this segment is well represented on the board so they have taken it very seriously. They have come to the realization that the money would be well-invested in the future of the children of this area. They encourage everyone to get out and vote next Tuesday. School will be dismissed early that day due to the voting which will be from 3 to 8 p.m. at the school.