By Emily Bialkowski
In what is otherwise a quiet election year, voters in the Caledonia School District are being asked to approve the district’s request for a $495,000 one-day bond.
Superintendent Ben Barton took time during the regular School Board meeting on Oct. 21 to address the matter.
“We just want to get the information out, and hopefully people will consider voting yes,” he said.
Approving the bond will not raise taxes but will extend the life of the district’s capital loan on the middle school/high school building. As of now, the district is set to pay off the 50-year loan 20 years ahead of time. Withholding $495,000 from the payment will extend that payoff time by about six months.
Caledonia is only one of 12 schools in the state to have a capital loan, which requires the district to tax at the “maximum effort.” Doing so leaves no room for the district to spend money on building improvements, curriculum or technology. All the dollars go to pay off the loan.
Approving a one-day bond, however, allows the district to hold back $495,000 for building and grounds, technology and curriculum. The money is not allowed to be used for teacher salaries or other needs.
The district successfully passed one-day bonds in 2011 and 2012, and the dollar amount is kept to $495,000 to avoid getting the state involved. If the district were to ask for more money, it would have to go through a lengthy approval process before going to voters.
Should the one-day bond fail, Barton said the schools will have less than $200,000 for building and grounds, curriculum and technology despite the fact that it will still collect the same amount of taxes.
“School funding has gone through ups and downs, and Caledonia has lived through some difficult times where we’ve had to reduce in many, many areas. We’ve identified several areas that we have to maintain and replace and get up with the times to the 21st century,” Barton said. “We are doing this because of current financial need in the district.”
High on the priority list of needs is repairs to the elementary roof, tuck-pointing the elementary building, repairing HVAC issues at the middle school/high school and continuing to purchase updated technology for the classrooms, such as iPads.
Public turnout at the meeting was practically nil, so Barton encouraged anyone with questions about the school’s request to contact him or visit the district’s website at www.cps.k12.mn.us under “Hot News” and “One Day Bond.”
Voting will take place on Nov. 5 beginning at 1:30 p.m. at Caledonia Elementary School, 511 W. Main St.