The Brandon-Evansville School District needs more educational space in their two schools, according to district leaders. And if a proposed referendum gets passed this November, there could be an additional eight to 10 new learning spaces – at an estimated cost of about $15.2 million.

"This is as frugal as we can be and still meet our needs,” Superintendent Don Peschel told school board members at a work session Wednesday, May 26. He also noted that there is a difference between what the district would be gaining by the proposed renovations and additions versus what the district would be paying for.

At the Evansville campus, the conceptual plan included the addition of two classrooms, commons area, multi-purpose gymnasium and a new parking area. In Brandon, the plan included a new gym with varsity size floor, additional classroom space, a fitness room that could be open to the community and a new storage shed facility that would house a bus, mini bus, van and other items.

Don Peschel
Don Peschel

The need for space, said Peschel, is because enrollment keeps growing. Currently, enrollment is sitting at about 486 students, he said, adding that if the new school year were to start tomorrow, enrollment would be at about 516.

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“We don’t have space. We’re looking at church space to provide more educational space,” he said, adding that the district’s enrollment is above what the projections were.

During the meeting, Lori Christensen, a consultant with ICS, the firm hired by the district, presented potential floor plans for the proposed project, which includes remodels and additions at both the Brandon and Evansville buildings. She also went over four different funding options for the project.

Floor Plans by inforumdocs on Scribd

Although the board cannot take action at a work session, it did come to a consensus, narrowing the funding options down to two:

Option 1:

  • $14,833,837 would come from the voter approved referendum, which would have a tax impact on voters.

  • $379,490 would come from the ESSER III Federal Grant. This would not have a tax impact.

Option 2

  • $14,272,045 would come from the voter approved referendum, which would have a tax impact on voters.

  • $379,490 would come from the ESSER III Federal Grant. This would not have a tax impact.

  • $531,792 would come from general obligation facility bonds, which also would not have a tax impact but it would add to the district's debt.

Matt Rantapaa from Baird Financial, the financial company used by the school district, discussed the funding options in detail, including whether school board members would want to do a 20-year referendum or a 25-year referendum. The consensus from the board was for 20 years.

While discussing the funding options, Rantapaa talked about the tax impact, giving some examples to the school board. If the district decides to go with Option 1, the yearly tax impact on a homestead residential property with an estimated market value of $150,000 would be $204.70 or a little more than $17 per month.

For option two, the yearly tax impact on a homestead residential property with an estimated market value of $150,000 would be $192.02 or about $16 per month.

The district is still weighing all the options and still finalizing floor plans.

They plan to bring the information to the public at a Community Open House on Tuesday, June 15 from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. in the Evansville School gymnasium. Attendees will have the opportunity to ask questions and provide feedback.

Timeline

May-June: Finalize proposed plans for facility improvements.

June: Get community feedback and input.

July: Board to make final decision on bringing plan to voters in a referendum in November.

July-August: Submit Review and Comment to Minnesota Department of Education.

August-November: Communication with the public.

Nov. 2: Election Day.

Background

In November 2019, a $25.2 million referendum failed. Residents in the district voted on two separate questions and both of them failed. Question one failed by a margin of 59.3% to 40.7%. It would have provided $19.9 million in bonds to convert the Brandon School to a pre-kindergarten through grade 12 school. Those funds would have also been used to demolish a portion of the school in Evansville.

Question two failed by a vote of 971 to 590, or 62.2% voting against it. The question was contingent on the passing of the first question, and would have provided an additional $5.3 million in bonds for a new multi-purpose gym with locker rooms and to add a dedicated space for the Chargers Kid Club, both at the Brandon campus.

After the failed referendum, the school board went ahead and approved spending $7.8 million to improve indoor air quality by replacing the boilers and upgrading the ventilation infrastructure at both the Brandon and Evansville schools. The Minnesota Legislature allows school boards to make necessary health and safety improvements by using long-term facilities maintenance bonds, backed by a local levy.