The White Bear Lake Area Schools Board is expected to vote July 15 on a $326 million bond referendum to be included on the November ballot.
The board discussed details of the plans at a workshop June 27. The bond would be for proposed plans for a one-campus high school, new elementary school in Hugo and other building upgrades in the district.
The plans for the next 10 years include a one-campus high school at North Campus, the relocation of Sunrise Park Middle School to South Campus, and a new K-5 elementary school in Hugo. Oneka Elementary in Hugo would become a K-5 school and Hugo Elementary would become an early childhood center. Sunrise would become an early childhood center, transition center and senior center, and would house district offices.
The vacated District Center would be an expansion for Central Middle School. The 100-year-old building would be filled with children again, noted Assistant Superintendent for Finance and Operations Tim Wald. Safety and security improvements, as well as flexible learning spaces, are also part of the plans.
The board would also include two long-term facilities maintenance bonds totaling $50 million to cover costs of the plans. The board has the authority to issue such bonds without voter approval, per state law.
The project costs would be spread out over time with the bonds, said Shelby McQuay, Ehlers consultant. The increase would begin in January 2020 and stay level. “In no year will the taxpayers in the district see any increase or decrease. It is just meant to be level between pay 2020 and pay 2044.”
The tax impact for the $326 million in voter-approved bonds on a $275,000 home would be an increase of $280 per year, according to board documents. For a $1 million commercial building, it would be about $1,300.
The plans were put forth by a 90-member committee that met this winter. The facility planning committee of staff, parents and community members came to a consensus on the plans this spring after discussing five options for high school and elementary configuration to meet growing enrollment needs. The facilities planning was prompted by the district's recent strategic planning. The district projects that more than 2,000 new students will enroll during the next 10 years due to housing growth. The growth will be 25% higher than current capacity. The district has seen more than 7% growth since 2010.
“We are really focused on using existing square footage wherever possible,” Wald said.
The board discussed what would happen if the bond didn't pass by voters. Wald said the district would have to come up with a new plan to accommodate growing enrollment.
“If not now, we won’t be ready for the kids that are coming and building costs are not going to stay stagnant; they are going to go up,” said Board Member Ellen Fahey. “If not now, when?”
The board appeared to be on board with the bond plans.
“We feel good about it and I think you have indicated you do as well, so we are hopeful going into the fall that this will be really successful,” said Superintendent Wayne Kazmierczak.
The board will vote on whether to include the bond referendum on the Nov. 5 ballot at its 7 p.m. July 15 meeting.