The Greenbush-Middle River School Board explored another way to provide the district additional revenue– a Capital Projects Levy– at its December 19 meeting in Greenbush. At board request, Superintendent Tom Jerome brought information to the board on capital projects levies, and the board discussed possible future district actions.
This discussion follows after district residents voted down an operating levy last November that would have provided the district with a projected $632,831, or $2320 per pupil, annually over five years.
For review, a capital project levy lets districts start an account funded through an “annual tax levy.” It provides an annual stream of revenue that can be used for capital expenses, general or specific. Many districts use it to fund technology, according to the power point Jerome provided in the Agenda Packet on the school website.
The board could pass a resolution to send a capital project levy to a vote and a majority would be required to pass it, but unlike an operating levy vote, the board can set any date to hold the election for this vote. These levies can last no longer than 10 years.
Asked about projected revenue stream per year from this levy, Jerome said he could provide an approximate amount for the first year, but after that, the amount would vary, since the capital project levy totals per year are based on the net tax capacity of the district, which can change.
Melby wanted to discuss proposed capital project levies, later adding that the gym floor is standing on its last leg, buses are needing to be repaired, and the district is going to have to make some cuts.
“I think it’s pretty much a no brainer we’ll need the funds,” Melby said.
Jerome said he could present the budget for the 17-18 school year in June for approval, but, as requested by Melby, could get these budget projections to the board earlier then that. Jerome said that any cuts would be proposed this spring as part of the district budget, adding that based on the levy failing and the district deficit spending, the district would have to look for expenditure reductions.
As for buses, when asked how many buses are on their last leg, Jerome mentioned how a number could be replaced.
As for the gym floor, board member Carrie Jo Howard questioned whether they needed a new gym floor this summer. The individual who sanded the floor about two years told the former Athletic Director Eldon Sparby that this was the last time the floor could be sanded down, a finding that was presented to the board. As Jerome said though, the district currently doesn’t have the funds available to even get a new gym floor this summer. As board member Jeff Nelson added, putting a capital project levy up for a vote and having it pass would not give the district funds for the summer.
Board member Kurt Stenberg voiced his thoughts on bringing a capital project up for a vote. He said he didn’t want to bring up a vote for a $300,000 capital project when he believed the district needed millions. He then addressed the relationship between the amount of students and buildings the district has. As of December 9, 2016, the GMR District enrollment stood at 374 (231 in the Greenbush site and 143 in the Middle River site), compared to 408 in December 2015.
“We don’t have enough kids to operate two buildings,” Stenberg said, adding that the district needs to balance the budget.
With the buses, gym, and other repairs, Melby said they don’t have the funds now to fix these issues, so he questioned why they would not put out a capital project levy for a vote to help provide such funds.
Stenberg later said that he would like to see a budget line by line to operate one school building. Jerome responded, saying the district put together a projected cost savings for one building two years ago when it was working with JLG Architects on the proposed new school building. He said he could work to gather this info again, which would include reductions in staff and energy costs among other things, and bring it to the January meeting.
Melby then asked if it was even possible to do what they currently do in one building. Board member Laurie Stromsodt chimed in with a “no,” adding that she believed there weren’t not enough rooms.
Stenberg responded that this facility in Greenbush once housed seventh to twelfth grade. He believed that the 23 students projected to enter kindergarten next fall could fit in one classroom.
Melby questioned how putting all the students in one building would impact the education, asking if they could have the same level of education they have now if they transition to one building.
The board didn’t propose a capital project levy at this time.
More topics addressed at the GMR School Board meeting will be featured in next week’s issue of The Tribune.