The Crookston School Board held a special meeting on Tuesday evening at the Crookston School District Office Conference room and approved the proposed bus garage plan and approved a 10-year bonding plan to put before the voters in a referendum on November 5, 2019.
The first topic discussed was the bus garage plan and approval of the two-building pre-engineered metal heated buildings at an estimated cost of $2,893,381. The cost was over $200,000 cheaper than an unheated pole structure through Morton and $480,000 cheaper than a heated pole structure through Morton, a company that many suggested the school district work with. The approved plan will have room for 18 busses, two bays for maintenance and one wash bay. They will also have room for smaller vehicle storage in the second building. Vehicles like vans, suburbans, skid steers, and other small vehicles and equipment. The second building (the office) will have office space, restrooms, a mezzanine to store parts and according to Crookston School District Transportation Director Rick Niemela, there will be enough room to fit their needs.
Board member Tim Dufault, an area farmer, said they should have a fueling station and Crookston School District Superintendent Jeremy Olson said they plan to put one in, but they will use existing dollars to complete the fueling station. Neimela said they have to fuel busses twice a week and trip busses before each trip. It takes about 30 minutes to fill a bus.
The board unanimously approved the plan (board member Adrianne Winger was not at the meeting). Superintendent Olson explains the plan. “The school board gave us unanimous approval of the bus garage plan. It was a little bit of a hybrid plan to save dollars. We have a metal frame building for our bus garage and mechanics bay and a stick frame garage for our smaller vehicles and we save over $100,000 by going with a two-building solution,” said Olson. “We are excited about this project and it meets all our needs. We are looking at the possibility of funding the fueling station separately.”
The next item up for discussion was the length of the bond and Shelby McQuay of Ehlers (Public Finance company) went through the pros and cons of a 10, 14 or 16-year bond. The 10-year bond pays almost $340,000 less than a 14-year plan in interest and over $1 million less in interest than the 16-year plan. “The 10-year plan is about $500,000 interest, so the school board was trying to be responsible with taxpayer dollars and understand the tax impact will be more over 10 years but will save money in the long run.”
The average residential property value in the Crookston School District is $125,000 and a 10-year bond would cost the homeowner $34 more per year for 10 years in taxes. McQuay also said that the Crookston School District is considered to be a wealthy district with over 50 percent of the land classified as agriculture land. See the graph below for the estimated tax impact.
McQuay also told the board that the farmers will get a 50% tax credit next year and they are currently receiving a 40% tax credit on any school referendum levies in 2019. The state will pick up 27% of the cost while the taxpayers will pay 73%. “We are excited about this. The timing seems to be right and this year they have a 40% ag to school tax credit. 40% of ag land costs are reimbursed by the state and next year it moves up to 50% and the current law has it moving up five percent each year all the way up to 70%,” said Olson. “We believe this is really nice opportunity for our farmers to vote yes for this project without being really detrimental to them and we are trying to minimize the cost to those with ag land. We are also tying it in with the pool referendum falling off so the residential and commercial folks don’t feel as much of a pinch with the pool referendum falling off.”
McQuay also said that they have seen great bond rates below three percent in Virginia and Eveleth.
The board will make a final decision on the referendum questions at their meeting on July 22, but they will be looking at two questions on the ballot in November. “Currently the bus garage at $2.9 million and we also have a revoke and replace of our current operating referendum,” said Olson. “We are going to ask the voters to revoke a higher dollar amount and replace with a lower amount for the pool referendum we had.” A vote to revoke the current pool referendum and replace will save property taxpayers money – see the attachment below.
The board will discuss what question will come first and if one question is contingent on the other. Olson added that they will have several community forums and they will be informing the public and if anybody has any questions you can contact him at the school and he will be more than happy to meet with anybody.