HJ/EDHerald Journal, Dec. 26, 2005

HLWW sets another school vote for February

By Jenni Sebora

The recent narrow defeat of the Howard Lake-Waverly-Winsted school building bond election did not stop the HLWW school board, as it voted unanimously at last Monday’s school board meeting to put another building bond vote before the voters Feb. 21.

After canvassing the returns of votes of the December 13 school district bond election of which a total of 2,350 voters voted with 1,157 voting in favor and 1,193 voting against, the school board officially declared the special election to have failed.

But with the failure being by a slim margin, 36 votes, or a little over one percent, the board decided to move ahead and try again for another building bond election in February.

“The need is not going to go away,” said board member Tom Hammer. “It is a good plan (the recent building bond proposal). I applaud the people that have educated people (regarding the recent building bond proposal). We were so close. I challenge people who voted “no” to come in contact with board members.”

Superintendent George Ladd explained that according to a discussion with the election attorney Tom Deans of Knutson, Flynn, and Dean, the election law states that the following options are available.

If the proposal remains the same and nothing is changed, the district has to wait for 180 days before it can run another election (after June 12, 2006 by law).

To be able to hold another election in February, the dollar amount must be changed by a difference of 5 to 10 percent and have a different purpose, which could mean including interest in the first question and/or moving components out of the original question and/or creating a second question with those or dropping or adding a major component and/or creating a second question.

Because of state guidelines and an increase in construction costs, capital interest and other expenses, Ladd also noted that it would cost the district a million or more if it were to propose the same project.

“Basically, George, what you are saying is the longer we put off the project and the longer it takes, the more it is going to cost the district,” board member Charlie Borrell said.

Board member Al Doering agreed. “The longer letting the project go, it’s costing us, and we have to go out with portables. For every dollar spent on portables, it’s a dollar not spent on kids, and it’s (the portable payments) coming out of the capital operating money for the district, and after we pay for it (portable leases), it’s gone – we don’t get to keep the portables.”

Board member Dan Schaible noted that working in construction himself he knows that construction costs will go up as they speak and noted that there needs to be enough money for contingency costs, such as sinks in the elementary classrooms which are lacking in the portables and are important in elementary classrooms.

Ladd noted that with information from the architects if the building bond election would pass this February, the elementary schools could be complete by the beginning of the 2007 school year, and the high school could be complete in the beginning or the spring of 2008.

After some discussion, the board unanimously agreed on a February building bond vote and moved forward to decide upon what the building bond special election would entail.

Since a Feb. 21 election date was decided, the board set a required special meeting Friday, Dec. 23 at 8 a.m. to have the ballot resolution.

And this time, the ballot will include two questions to give the voters choices and to meet the guidelines for making changes to the ballot.

The first question will ask for the same items as the last bond vote, except for the bond amount, which will increase because of state guidelines, increased construction fees, capital interest, and other fees.

The first ballot question proposes a new high school for 500 students in grades 9-12, including athletic fields and a bus garage, converting the middle school/high school in Howard Lake to a middle school for grades 6-8, and adding on to and renovating both Winsted and Humphrey Elementary Schools for an approximate total of $27.340 million which includes some contingency costs.

After discussion, the board unanimously decided that the second question on the ballot will ask for additional parking at an approximate cost of $200,000, detached storage area for an approximate $80,000, and district-wide technology needs, for $170,000, for an approximate total of $450,000.

The total bond issue if both were to pass would be an approximate $27.790 million. Ladd noted that this bond amount is a target amount that the board has set but is contingent on information from the district’s financial consultants and the amount will be finalized in the near future.

Doering noted that a loss by 1 percent doesn’t warrant a change to the building bond that was voted on recently and supports a second question to give voters choices. “We will get less for more if we keep delaying it,” Doering emphasized.

Hammer agreed noting that committees and the board have worked hard for three years on the proposed building bond project.

“We need to move ahead with a February vote. We clearly have found a project that fits our needs,” board member Lori Custer said.

Per conversations with community members, other suggestions that the board discussed for inclusion on a second question included a third gym station, a generator, and a green house.

“I won’t support a gym or a green house at this point – they are not our immediate needs,” Hammer said.

Ladd and all board members agreed that the district is lacking in storage and extra storage is a need.

Custer noted that the district is behind in technology needs and would support adding that to the bond vote. Board chair John Lideen agreed noting that technology is a district-wide need.

Board member Charles Weber noted that senior citizens have conveyed to him that the district needs more parking.

In regard to a second question, community member Kendell Kubasch noted that anything that is put on the ballot should be logical and items discussed are logical.

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