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Maintenance, upgrades highlight Hastings School District's $49.5M bond measure

Hastings Public Schools will ask the community for support on two items in the Nov. 7 election.

The district will ask the community to approve a $49.5 million bond and the other will request approval for an operating levy.

The proposed bond would have a zero tax impact on the property of residents. Bonds pay for 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/facilities and cannot be used to pay for general operations.

There are five areas in which the bond would be used: safety and security, deferred maintenance, 21st century learning, community shared spaces and technology.

The largest amount of the requested bond is for deferred maintenance at district facilities. The total cost of deferred maintenance is about $38.97 million. Deferred maintenance refers to items within the school facilities that the district was unable to repair last time there was a bond and continued maintenance items.

One of the most expensive items that the school district is looking to replace is the ventilation system at Hastings Middle School. The estimated cost for replacing the system building wide in order to improve temperature control and be up to code is nearly $8.2 million. The existing system has not been replaced since the building was built in the late '60s and early '70s.

Remaining projects at the middle school alone add up to about $24 million. Another large cost is the roof repairs at Hastings High School. The cost for a new roof is about $4.2 million.

The roof at the high school and the HVAC system at the middle school are two of the core factors in the bond, according to Superintendent Tim Collins. The roof at the high school has been leaking and it continues to leak. Last year, one of the boilers at the middle school went out and had to be replaced. Being that the system was so old, Collins said that it was difficult to find the part that was needed for the repair.

Earlier this year, a volunteer community task force provided feedback on what was needed to reinvest in the facilities. The committee was made up of 20 community members who met eight times from january through April. The group came to a consensus and recommended a reinvestment of $49.3 million to the school board.

An investment in Todd Field and McNamara Stadium is included within the proposed bond as well. A synthetic turf at Todd Field would cost about $2 million. However, according to the community task force, an investment in turf would allow the field to be used more than double what it is used now. The investment would turn the average usage rate of 40 days to 110 days. There would also be opportunities for the community to use the space.

An operating levy helps pay for the general operations in the district including the cost of teachers and other staff. In April, the board voted to reduce certain education positions and not renew teaching contracts of six probationary teachers. This resulted in a reduction of $522,000 of expenditures. An approval of the operating levy would help minimize employee reductions in the district. If the levy fails, the district would have to consider deeper spending cuts.

The proposed operating levy would have 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.

Collins said that he has been very thankful that the community has supported bonds and levies in the past. The community is one that supports education while also asking the tough questions and look at all the information, he said.

If the bond is not approved, Collins said that the district will likely come back to community as soon as possible because the core issues need to be addressed. If the levy is not approved, Collins said that budget reductions would be steeper than anticipated.

More information about the referendum can be found on the district's website at www.hastings.k12.mn.us/about_us/2017_referendum_information. A complete list of projects proposed by the bond is available, voter information, a tax calculator and more information from superintendent Collins.

Polling locations

Combined Precinct 1: Includes Ward 1, P2 & P3 - Hope Lutheran Church

Combined Precinct 2: Includes Ward 2, P1 & 2 - Our Saviours Lutheran Church

Combined Precinct 3: Includes Ward 3, P1 & P2 - Hastings Methodist Church

Combined Precinct 4: Includes Ward 4, P1 & P2 - St. Phillips Lutheran Church

Combined Precinct 5: Includes the townships of Marshan, Ravenna, Denmark, Vermillion, Douglas, Hampton, New Trier and the city of Vermillion, City of Hampton, City of New Trier, City of Miesville

Polls are open 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. Tuesday, Nov. 7.

Michelle Wirth

Michelle Wirth graduated from the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire in 2013 with a degree in journalism and web design. She worked as a web content editor for a trade association before coming to the Hastings Star Gazette in 2016.

(651) 319-4503
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