Hastings School District seeking voter support

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Hastings Public Schools will ask the community to vote on two referendum questions in the upcoming Nov. 7 election.

One question will ask to approve a $49.5 million bond and the other will ask to approve an operating levy. According to school board officials, an approval of both is necessary due to insufficient funding from the state of Minnesota and declining enrollment.

The bond will pay for the buildings so that there will be funds made available to update the facilities. The funds from a bond can only be used for the buildings and cannot be used to pay for general operations.

Superintendent Tim Collins said that there are four items that are vital: the middle school HVAC system, the high school roof, parkings lots and technology.

The middle school was built in the late '60s and early '70s. The heating and ventilation system has not been replaced since it was built more than 40 years ago and is now in need of replacement, according to the district. A new HVAC system is estimated to cost around $28 million.

The high school was built in 2000. The roofs and parking lots have deteriorated over time and are in need of replacement, too. A new roof would cost around $5.2 million.

The tax impact for residents in relation to the $49.5 million bond request will not change if it is approved. The high school will will be paid off in 2021. Once the high school is paid off, the requested bond will replace the bond that the community was paying on the high school, Collins said. Interest only will be paid on the bond until the high school is paid off which will help the community see no change in their taxes. If the bond does not get approved, community taxes would go down in 2021 when the current high school debt is paid off.

Earlier this year, the school district asked a volunteer community task force to help with feedback on the need to reinvest in the facilities. The committee was made up of 20 community members who met eight times from January through April. They toured each district building so that they could see what needed improvements. The group came to a consensus and recommended a reinvestment of $49.3 million to the school board.

Operating levy

The operating levy is used to raise funds that will pay for general operations in the district, which includes the cost of teachers and other staff.

In April, the board voted to reduce certain education positions and not renew the teaching contacts of six probationary teachers. As a result, anticipated expenditures for the 2017-18 school year were reduced by about $522,000.

The approval of an operating levy would help the district minimize employee reductions. If the levy fails, the district would have to consider deeper spending cuts.

If the operating levy is approved, there would be a tax impact for property owners. The amount that would be increased would vary depending on property value. The tax impact on a $250,000 home would be about $10.56 per month.

There are currently two operating levies approved by voters. The current levy has been in place since 2011 and will expire in 2019. In 2013, voters renewed a second levy that will expire in 2023. The district has not asked for an increase in the operating levy since 2005.

Referendum meetings

Two more public meetings will be held for community members who would like to learn more information about the referendum. One meeting will be held at 5 p.m. Oct. 25 at the Hastings Middle School Auditorium. Another meeting will be at 7:30 p.m. Oct. 25 at Hampton City Hall.

For other questions contact Superintendent Tim Collins at 651-480-7001 or tcollins@hastings.k12.mn.us.