By Emily Bialkowski
In August the Caledonia School Board will consider asking voters to approve a one-day, $495,000 bond for what will be the third consecutive year. The district held special elections on this same matter in 2011 and 2012 and received the go-ahead from its constituency.
The money must be earmarked for maintenance and technology needs, and that is what the district has used the money for in the past.
“There’s significant needs in this district. It’s allowing us to move to one-to-one computing; we’re updating curriculum; and we have significant building needs,” Superintendent Ben Barton told the board July 15.
How it works
Caledonia is unique in that it holds a capital loan on the middle/high school building, which was constructed in 2002. This type of loan requires the district to tax at the “maximum effort” based on property values.
A one-day bond, if approved by voters, allows the district to withhold $495,000 of payment on that loan and use it for things like building maintenance. Property owners are getting taxed to the max to pay off the debt already. That leaves the district no room for maintenance and technology needs without the one-day bond financing tool.
Thus far, board members are expressing favor toward the bond.
“My opinion on this is I think it’s something we have to do,” board member Michelle Werner said, adding, “We have lots of needs in this district and this is one way to meet those needs.”
Jared Barnes agreed, saying, “Where would we be if we didn’t do the other two?”
Some of the upcoming and quite urgent needs include the roof on the elementary school. Contractors have said the entire roof needs attention, but the portion over the kindergarten rooms is in “really bad shape,” board member Jean Meyer said.
Barton said he feels the one-day bond is starting to give the district momentum.
“If we were to pass one, two or three more, that would really get us moving to where we need to be,” he said.
Meyer recommended that Barton prepare a list of how the money has been spent the past two years while listing the needs moving forward.
The topic will be on the Aug. 19 agenda.
In other business, the board approved a 10-cent increase on school lunch prices for the 2013-14 school year. The action is a direct result of the federal Healthy Hungry-Free Kids Act of 2010.
“I think the board is aware of this, but I want to reiterate: We don’t have a choice in our district because our lunch price is far lower than it should be, and by law we must increase in increments until we get to the point that we should be,” Barton said.
Lunch prices will be $2.20 for elementary students and $2.30 for middle and high school students.
Math test results
During the administrative reports section of the meeting, Community Education Director Nancy Runningen said some students have been informed that they will receive a second set of math test results for the state’s 11th grade math test. Parents of 11th graders in the room breathed a sigh of relief when middle/high school principal Paul DeMorett said, from what he understands, the change will only be in the positive, as some of the questions had more than one correct answer.
Runningen also said work is being done to form a Junior Lego League.
During his report, Barton reminded the board the district should be receiving an answer from the state as to whether or not it qualifies for Q Comp funding.
Approved school districts receive $169 per student in state aid, and the district has the option of levying an additional $91 per student for the program, the equivalent of about $60,000 in Caledonia. The money must be earmarked for teacher development and evaluation. No discussion or decision took place on the option to levy, but the matter will surface again once Caledonia hears from the state.
The district continues to evaluate student safety and had hoped to reconfigure entrance ways this spring so that all foot traffic would be forced to navigate through a front office before entering the schools.
Barton said estimates for the work came in way over projected costs and the project will have to be pushed back. The other option, Barton said, is to lock all entrances and install buzzers, though a cost on that was not available. No action was taken.
As is tradition at each school board meeting, groups and/or individuals are extended a thank you for supporting the Caledonia School District.
This month the Caledonia City Council was honored for its commitment to pedestrian safety with the purchase of the pedestrian crosswalk lights on Highway 44 near Dairy Queen.
The board voted to go into a closed session to discuss negotiations. No action was taken when the board reopened the meeting.