HG board sets auditorium referendum for November election ballot

by Steve Ottman
Review Correspondent

HOWARDS GROVE.The Howards Grove School Board is moving forward with a referendum for a new auditorium to be constructed at the Howards Grove High School.

Following lengthy discussion, a motion was made by board member Kari Bramstedt and seconded by board member Nate Dehne to approve sending the $4.7 million dollar referendum for the purpose of paying the cost of school building and improvement program - consisting of construction of an auditorium; capital improvement projects at district buildings and grounds; and acquisition of furnishings, fixtures and equipment - to the district voters. The motion carried unanimously.

Superintendent Chris Peterson presented a timeline leading up to the consideration of the construction of the auditorium to be used by all three schools in the district.

About a year ago, a 15-person committee was formed to plan to construct a new auditorium. The game plan was to seek interested donors and have a survey sent out to get public approval.

Peterson stated that they received a large donation from the Acuity Foundation and $300,000 has been raised so far.

Plans were shown for a new auditorium with easy access to the high school and big enough for each school to use.

“This facility would allow us to hold most events except graduation,” said Peterson.

Peterson explained that results from the survey showed that 56 percent were in favor of the auditorium with 24 percent opposed and about 20 percent undecided.

“We need to capture one-third of the undecided to help the referendum pass,” Peterson remarked.

Peterson explained that increased state aid this year could lower the mill rate to about $9.28, which is the lowest in more than 10 years.

There wouldn’t be any tax increase in the 2016-2017 school year as it stands now. The projected mill rate for 2017- 2018 would be $9.68 if the referendum is approved, according to Peterson.

“If state aid continues to go up and equalized property values continue to rise, this would also be in our favor in keeping taxes down,” Peterson commented. “It has always been my goal to keep the mill rate under $10.”

Jerry Dudzik, a representative from Springsted Financial, gave a presentation related to the referendum.

Dudzik stated that this new auditorium would be a one-time financing and would be wrapped around the existing debt until 2026. He stated that this is a good time to borrow, with some of the lowest interest rates available. The district has achieved a good bond rating and its financial status is very good.

Board president Mark DeAmico said that he liked the district’s financial position.

“We are in a good financial position to move forward with this,” said Peterson. “The timing is right to get the referendum on the November ballot. Our district can be more competitive with other districts and this will be a very nice addition to the school.”

Changes to the support staff handbook were tabled to a future board meeting.

The board accepted the resignations of staff members Kasey Smith and Tracey Reghi-Smith with regrets.

A teacher’s contract for business education was issued to Kimberly Zimmer for the 2016-2017 school-year.

The regular monthly school board meeting for April 17, 2017 was changed to April 24, 2017 to allow for school to be back in session after Easter.

The CESA 7 contract for 2016-2017 was approved at a cost of $35,304.

High school fundraising activities were approved for the 2016-2017 school year.

Peterson updated the board on the 1-1 Computer Initiative. Parent meetings have been set in the high school library to answer questions. An outline for parent and student guidelines for usage of the computers will be completed soon.

DeAmico thanked all of the committee members for their support for the auditorium referendum and their time spent.

He also thanked the Howards Grove PTO for a donation for bussing costs association with the 2015-2016 school year.

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