Serving Northern St. Louis County, Minnesota

Ely school survey is in the mail

District seeks to gauge taxpayer support for facility project

Keith Vandervort
Posted 9/19/19

ELY – Residents in the Ely school district can expect to receive a survey in their mailbox this week with the chance to weigh in on proposed improvements to the buildings on the ISD 696 …

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Ely school survey is in the mail

District seeks to gauge taxpayer support for facility project

Posted

ELY – Residents in the Ely school district can expect to receive a survey in their mailbox this week with the chance to weigh in on proposed improvements to the buildings on the ISD 696 campus.

District officials mailed some 3,000 surveys to taxpayers to gauge opinion on possible property tax increases over the next 20 years to help fund a building improvement and expansion project. The results of the survey will help school board members decide how to proceed on the multi-million-dollar project proposal. Depending on the plan adopted, district voters will likely have the final say on any new bond levy.

The community school facilities ad hoc committee met again last Thursday to put the finishing touches on the survey, developed by School Perceptions of Slinger, Wis. Katie Hildenbrand, principal designer for Architectural Resources, Inc., highlighted the facility project options, carrying a price tag of between $5.9 million and $20 million. “Survey takers are walked through the layers of proposed projects, individual costs, and are asked to rank their support,” she said.

Following a brief narration on the project’s background and audit report spelling out the needs for improvements to the 100-year-old buildings and addition of 21st century education delivery systems, the first question on the survey simply asks if the taxpayer would support ISD 696 exploring a bond referendum to fund the improvements.

The survey takes the participant through a list or menu of various building project components and corresponding costs and they are asked if they support or don’t support each item, or if they are not sure and need more information.

Three parts of the base plan, connecting the school buildings ($1.9 million), improving safety ($600,000), and updating building systems ($3.4 million), total $5.9 million. The projected property tax increase on residential property with an estimated market value of $100,000 would be $20 per year for 20 years for the base plan. A tax impact chart for each of the building project options is included in the survey to help estimate proposed property tax increases.

Additional project proposals, such as adding a second competitive gym to the campus, locker room renovations, kitchen and cafeteria renovation, classroom and restroom improvements in the each of the buildings, STEM lab creation, music and art classroom renovation, parking lot and student-drop off improvements, and other projects are all listed with corresponding cost estimates. Survey takers are asked if they support or don’t support each of the options.

If all the additional projects outlined in the survey were completed, the total estimated cost of the project would be about $20 million. The tax impact on a residential property with an estimated market value of $100,000 would be $138 each year for 20 years to fund the full range of projects.

A school safety grant of $495,000 is available to the district for use on part of building connection and entrance security.. The Department of Iron Range Resources and Rehabilitation has indicated a willingness to consider providing financial support for ISD 696 building renovation and collaboration projects, but the agency has not provided a firm commitment to date. IRRRB officials are waiting on any borrowing referendum results.

The survey can be completed on the paper form and returned by mail, or completed online. The deadline for returning the completed surveys is Monday, Oct. 14. Hildenbrand pointed out that if there are two registered voters in the household, each of the voters has an opportunity to respond to their own survey. Call the district office, 218-365-6166, for additional surveys.

Survey results will be presented at a school board meeting on Tuesday, Oct. 29, beginning at 6 p.m. Results will also be available for review on the district website.

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