The Brandon-Evansville School District received a positive review and comment from the Minnesota Department of Education for the proposed two-question bond referendum set for November.
That means the school district can proceed with the project and that the commissioner of education approves of the plans.
If the district had received an unfavorable review and comment, it would have meant that the commissioner had questions on the education and/or economic impact of the proposed project. A negative review and comment would have meant that the proposed project is not educationally or economically advisable and the district cannot proceed with it.
Minnesota statutes require a review and comment statement on proposed school construction projects.
The school district submitted a 44-page document to the commissioner of education that included a description of the project, a breakdown of costs, source of project financing, preliminary floor plans, district boundary map, projected enrollment, how each ballot question is worded and much more.
“It was fantastic news to get a positive review and comment back from the Minnesota Department of Education,” said Superintendent Don Peschel.
“Having the commissioner support the plan is a big deal and it gives us cause to move forward with our vote for the project. We will continue to update community members through our website of the details regarding any questions about the proposed plan as we approach the vote date.”
The first ballot question, if approved, would authorize $19,915,000 in bonds to finance the conversion of the existing Brandon School to a pre-kindergarten through grade 12 school, and the 1917 portion of the Evansville School would be demolished, with the remaining portion used for athletic and activity space. The total cost of the project was broken down:
Building additions – $8,488,700
Kitchen equipment – $400,000
Renovations/relocations – $1,517,000
Furniture, fixtures and equipment – $375,000
Site improvements – $1.5 million
Deferred maintenance – $2,024,720
Demolition of the 1917 portion – $485,500
Fees, permits and testing – $3,461,076
Contingency – $1,360,764
Bond issuance – $302,240
The second ballot question, if approved, would authorize $5.3 million in bonds to finance a gymnasium, locker room addition and an Early Childhood addition. The question is contingent on the passing of the first question. The cost includes:
Gym, locker room, Early Childhood addition – $3,934,500
Fees, permits and testing – $920,673
Contingency – $361,974
Bond issuance – $82,853
Peschel said if both questions are approved, the district will issue 20-year bonds for the projects. A home in the district valued at $100,000, the average cost of a home in the district, is projected to see an annual increase of $268.44 if the entire plan proceeds – roughly $60 per year for indoor air quality, $165 for question one and $44 for question 2.
If question one passes, he said, the indoor air quality project can be incorporated into the larger building project for efficiency.
The board decided to address the district’s most urgent need and approved spending $7.8 million to improve indoor air quality by upgrading the HVAC systems at both the Brandon and Evansville facilities and replacing the boilers in Brandon. The Minnesota Legislature allows school boards to make necessary health and safety improvements by using long-term facilities maintenance bonds, backed with a local levy.
Peschel said board members, district staff and community members have put in a lot of hard work over the past 18 months to come up with a plan to address the district facility needs. He said feedback from residents was critical in helping the board decide the best options.
“Throughout this process, I have been grateful for the high level of community engagement. You
have asked smart questions, offered good direction and ideas and demanded a high value for
any future investments,”’ Peschel said.