Out of an estimated 160 people who attended a community meeting for the Brandon-Evansville School District Monday night in Evansville, just 94 cast votes for the facility option they prefer.
The favored option was C, with 56 votes. At an estimated $34 million, it would put all grades - PreK through grade 12 - in the Brandon school. The project would include renovation, new construction, sitework and deferred maintenance at the Brandon site, and would demolish portions of the Evansville school.
Option A, putting grades 6-12 in Evansville and the elementary in Brandon, received 35 votes. A third option that has all students attending school in Brandon, received only three votes.
Everyone in attendance at the community meeting had a chance to participate in the exercise by placing a red sticky dot on the option they preferred.
Here's a breakdown of each of the options:
• Brandon PreK-grade 5 - $14.9 million (includes renovation, sitework and deferred maintenance)
• Evansville grades 6-12 - $16.5 million (includes some demolition, renovation, new construction, sitework and deferred maintenance)
• Optional gym addition - $5.1 million
• Total - $31.4 million without gym; $36.5 million with gym
• Brandon PreK-grade 12 - $33.3 million (includes renovation, new construction, sitework and deferred maintenance)
• Evansville demolition - $702,087 (includes demolition)
• Total - $34 million
• Brandon PreK-grade 12 Value-Engineered - $24.9 million (includes renovation, new construction, sitework and deferred maintenance) Value-Engineered means corners were cut and costs were lowered.
• Evansville - $654,000 (includes some demolition)
• Optional gym, locker rooms and Chargers Kids Club addition - $5.3 million
• Total - $25.6 million without gym; $31 million with gym
Each option, including conceptual drawings and details about how building space could be used, is available on the Brandon-Evansville Chargers United website, www.bechargersunited.com.
Superintendent Don Peschel went through the details of each of the options and Mike Hoehisel from Baird Financial discussed tax impact, as well as other financial information.
Lori Christensen and Jason Splett from ICS Consulting, Inc., the firm hired by the district to help assess its facility issues and needs, as well as Matt Rantapaa from Baird Financial and Dan Miller from JLG Architects, were also on hand to answer questions and provide information throughout the community meeting.
Peschel stressed that the three options were conceptual and that the specifics can be changed. He also asked people who had questions to contact him via phone, email or by stopping by the school and he would get them the answers.
"We want to make sure everyone is informed," Peschel told the crowd. "We hope we are doing a better job and I want people to know my door is always open."
He also let everyone know that another community survey will be coming out at the end of this month. The next work session with ICS will take place Monday, July 15, at 6 p.m., with the regular school board meeting that night at 7:30 p.m.
Here's a brief recap of some of the questions asked and the answers that were provided by either the school district, ICS Consulting or Baird Financial:
Q: What happens with the city-owned property at the Evansville school?
A: The city and the school district would work out an agreement. The superintendent has been in conversations with the Evansville City Council, but nothing has been set in stone.
Q: What about sparsity aid? How is it determined? Would the district lose it?
A: A second source of funding from the state for the B-E School District is sparsity aid. The formula for calculating sparsity aid is complicated and Peschel briefly went over it.
If Option A were chosen, the school district would lose its sparsity aid. That amounts to roughly $159,000 yearly. Sparsity aid, in essence, is determined by the size of the district and the school building's location to neighboring districts of equal or similar size.
For the B-E district, sparsity aid would be lost in Option A because the high school would be in Evansville, close to another high school in Ashby. If the high school were to remain in Brandon, where it currently is, the district would not lose its sparsity aid. The number of students in a district is another factor in determining sparsity aid.
Q: Would there be land acquisition with Option C?
Q: Is an auditorium part of the plans?
A: Not at this time because of the cost. It is estimated to cost $4-5 million to build an auditorium.
Q: How many students open enroll to other districts?
A: Specific open enrollment data is tough to pinpoint, according to Peschel, but he did say that 51 students came into B-E from other districts, and that 126 students from the B-E district open enrolled into other surrounding districts.
Q: Would the gym space be enough to host regional events?
A: It would be larger than it is now, but the exact size has not been calculated.
Q: Is there going to be a fourth option if people feel these options don't fit our needs?
A: Not at this time.
Q: Was the Ashby School District approached about consolidation?
A: Yes, awhile back they were approached and were not interested. Recently, school board members reached out to Ashby and were told they want to stay independent.
Q: Is there a deadline or timeline?
A: Not really, but the district is looking to get something on the ballot this November. If they do, a decision has to be made by Aug. 8.
Q: If a referendum passes, how do you emotionally hold the school district together?
A: Peschel said the district would need to look at other communities. "They've healed. It's been done and it is doable," he said. "We've got to keep the kids and their future in mind."
Many other questions were asked and answered at the session. The bottom line, according to Peschel, is that he is concerned with the infrastructure of the schools.
"Something needs to be done," he said. "We have aging facility needs that could do damage to our fund balance, and our fund balance is healthy."
Peschel said there are some major space issues and concerns, and that the number of students that the district can count on is on the rise.
"I encourage you to come and see me if you have questions," he said, adding that all the information is on the school district's microsite, Brandon-Evansville Chargers United.
The next board work session, which the public can attend, is set for Wednesday, June 26 at 7 p.m.