The De Smet Board of Education met Monday and tackled numerous agenda items, but the most newsworthy was the approval of a bond resolution. The $9 million bond must be approved by voters, and the school board set June 21 as the bond election date.
With the school board passing their bond resolution, it now puts the voters in control of the future of the Laura Ingalls Wilder Elementary School building. A vote in favor of the bond would provide a means for the De Smet School District to finance a new elementary addition that would be constructed on the west side of the high school building.
A vote against the bond will leave the school district exploring other alternatives to address the problems that plague the 60-year-old structure. A comprehensive plan to address the key issues with the building and renovation was estimated at $7.4 million a year ago. The cost of a new addition, fees, furniture, equipment and other associated costs is currently estimated at $9 million.
The problems associated with the current elementary building have a lot to do with the age of the structure. At 60 years old, the structure has served its purpose. It was built and designed for classes in the 1960’s. Classrooms had three electrical outlets, and the electrical demands have increased over the years. Sewer lines are buried under a thick foundation with access requiring jackhammering, a repair that can’t be performed during school hours.
Changes in Life Safety Codes, security and the addition of the Americans with Disabilities Act have caused some concerns with the older building. Environmental controls are another item of concern. Some classrooms are too warm and using an older boiler system makes it hard to provide each classroom with the perfect temperature.
Whether a complete renovation was done with the current building, or repairs were performed on critical issues, the fact is, the building is 60 years old and maintenance issues will continue to arise and more frequently.
Building an addition would mean the school district has an energy efficient building, reducing utility costs for the district, and improvement made to the environmental controls in the high school building could reduce energy costs even further. A new addition would also ensure the district was prepared for increased student enrollment, accommodating up to 360-370 students.
Taxpayers in the De Smet School District would see an increase of $0.90 per $1,000 of assessed value. A house valued at $108,000 would see their property tax increase by $97.20 (108 X $0.90 = $97.20). A commercial property assessed at $500,000 would pay $450 a year more. A farmer with agriculture land assessed at $2,000/acre would see his taxes increase $1.80 per acre.
Seniors and disabled citizens who have filed an application for an assessment freeze with Kingsbury County, would still be responsible for the bond portion. Their assessed value would remain at the levels when they turned 65 years old, or when the disability occurred.
The De School Board hosted a community informational meeting and tours about the elementary building and the options available to them on April 21. An article titled, “New elementary addition?” can be read in the April 27 edition of the Kingsbury Journal.
With the approval of the bond resolution, the board approved a motion to enter an engagement contract with DA Davidson for issuance of general obligation bonds.
The board also approved the following election officials, Jennifer Barnard will be the superintendent of elections, while Dianne Larson, Suzanne Sinclair, Renae Aughenbaugh and Pat Wheeler will assist with the elections.
Business Manager Susan Purintun presented the preliminary budget for fiscal year 2022-2023 to the board. The budget will undergo many changes before it is officially approved before October 1. “Everything is subject to change,” said Purintun about the new budget.
This time of the year, it is still too far away from year end to finalize any numbers, and in the next few months, costs involved in finalizing contracts and curriculum additions can change those numbers. The outcome of the June 21 bond election will complicate and add further challenges to the new budget.
This year the state increased their aid to schools by six percent, and the increased enrollment helped De Smet see increased revenues. On the other hand, expenditures will be increasing with higher teacher salaries, increased costs for special education and rising costs for insurance coverage.
The school will review a proposed budget in June with a scheduled hearing in July for covering the new fiscal budget. As time goes on, the school’s budget will become focused and more precise.
Brian Bindert, an insurance representative who works with Employers Mutual, gave the board a presentation on their property and liability insurance renewal. The school will see its premiums increased by $11,242 over last year's policy for a total cost of $54,993. This is an increase of over twenty percent.
The reasons for the increases are mostly due to the valuation of the insured property. Some examples include the high school building, which was valued at $14 million last year; this year the insurance values it at just over $21 million. The elementary school building saw an increase of $1.7 million in its value, too.
The insurance cost increases are related to building a structure back to its original size and condition. When construction and supply costs rise, insurance will increase to cover the costs.
De Smet Schools also had their coverage at ninety percent to save some costs on the premiums, but the insurance provider has removed that option this year.
The school’s cyber liability policy that covers ransomware attacks, where files are held encrypted until demands are met, was $2,550 last year and had increased to $10,267 for this year. Bindert did present three different options to the board with other companies.
At the conclusion of the insurance presentation, the board decided to drop their policies on the track and fence, since those areas could be included in the policy covering the elementary building and were within 1,000 feet of the building. The board also chose to drop a shed and chose Lloyd’s of London for their cyber liability.
Junior and high school principal Andrew Armstead gave the board his report. He told the board that the May 20 driver’s education class has maxed out this year. There were just 12 students in last year’s class.
The last day of school will be May 18.
Family, Career and Community Leaders of America (FCCLA) will be hosting a “Pie the Teacher” on May 11. Mr. Pitts, Mr. Haugen, Mr. Krekelberg and Mrs. Ostrander volunteered to be pied.
Armstead told the board that the seniors had finished all their work on Friday, and their graduation on Saturday went well.
Students from De Smet, Arlington, Willow Lake, Lake Preston and Iroquois attended an assembly in De Smet, where Casey Renaas presented a powerful message about his experiences of drinking and driving to the students just before Prom.
School superintendent Abi Van Regenmorter gave her principal’s report. She told the board that last week was staff appreciation week, and that it was a busy time with many field trips scheduled. She also told them that summer school was ready to go.
Under consent agenda the board approved naming Van Regenmorter as the school’s Federal Program Administrator, School Improvement Coordinator and the Homeless Liaison.
The board approved signed contracts from the following for staff positions with the district. Becky Albrecht will teach second grade next year; Whitney Edleman will have preschool, and Shannon Palmlund will be the FCCLA and CTE teacher. The new school counselor will be Kyler Julius. Brandon Vockrodt and Jennifer Stofferahn will share concessions. Regan Garry will continue as assistant GBB coach; Brendon Pitts will be the tech coordinator, and Cody Cavanaugh will be an assistant golf coach.
Athletic director Becky Geyer told the board that the Athletic Banquet will be held Sun., May 15 at the De Smet Event Center at 6:30 p.m.
The school board approved Iroquois joining the wrestling cooperative next year. They also approved renewing the contract with the City of De Smet for the Event Center usage, and with that, the meeting was adjourned at 6:50 p.m.
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