Sartell-St. Stephen School District Work Session Discusses Gathering More Information on Planning Proposal

The Sartell-St. Stephen School Board held a work session on Wednesday, December 2, to discuss the recommendation made by the Community Schools Planning (CSP) Committee in relation to facilities planning.  The Board acknowledged mutual consensus to move forward with the committee’s recommendation of the building of a new high school and the remodeling of current facilities to alleviate district space and capacity issues at all of the district’s facilities.

The Board was presented with additional information alongside enrollment projections and the initial recommendation proposed by the CSP Committee. 

Facilities Planning Finances

Michael Hoheisel from Robert W. Baird & Co. presented a focus on finances in relation to the property tax impacts.  A variety of options were shared.  These projections took into consideration bonding for $90 million in facilities projects, and the Board also looked at the impacts of a $100 million bond.  Within this proposal, other considerations and information presented included:    

  • Current bonds issued will be paid off in five years.
  • The School District’s portion of property taxes has decreased over the past four years.
  • The operating levy impacts of an additional facility.
  • Current legislation being considered during this legislative session including universal preschool and state tax relief/debt equalization aid.
  • According to Bloomberg, the current tax exempt environment borrowing rate is still favorable.

Timeline for Vote and Building Projects

The board considered the costs and potential opening dates of a new high school depending on when the building bond referendum vote would be held.  If the bonding referendum vote is held in May 2016, the bonded amount would be lowest and the new high school could be opened by the summer of 2019.  If the bonding referendum vote would be held in November 2016, the bonded amount increases by an inflationary amount and the new high school would open between December 2019 and June 2020.  The board also heard information about the timing and voting requirements of an operating levy vote which would address new operating costs associated with a new high school.

Location of a New High School

The location of a new high school was discussed briefly and there will be more information on this topic at the December 9 Work Session.

Plans for Ongoing Input and Feedback From District Stakeholders

With the Board determining to move forward with the concept of building a new high school to provide more space for all students across the district, the Board wants to ensure that district staff have continued opportunities for input in supporting the teaching and learning possibilities and enhancements that would be possible within the facilities planning process. 

Also, in partnership with the Morris Leatherman Company, a phone survey will be conducted over the next three weeks to gather broad community feedback on the District and future planning for growth within the district.  The survey process will call a cross-sectional sample of adults residing in the Sartell-St. Stephen School District and ask about 60 questions.  The individual responses are confidential.  Summaries of all of the information gathered will be reported back to the School Board.

“The Community Schools Planning recommendation is now being moved forward with the opportunity to delve even deeper into the financial side of the proposal.  The initial proposal had a price tag on it that included the entire 15 year facilities and maintenance dollar amount.  We won’t need to bond for that entire amount as we have had some of these projects on our radar and have been being fiscally sound in our financial planning for our facilities,” commented Jeff Schwiebert, Sartell-St. Stephen Superintendent. 

“The Board has been, and will continue to be, very thoughtful about doing what is right for our community in all aspects.  We know that we need space as our buildings are very full.  And, according to an enrollment study, all projections show that we are going to continue to grow as a district,” shared Krista Durrwachter, Board Chair.  “We want to do what is best for our students while realizing the community and financial impacts.  We need to be very thoughtful about planning for our students and community today, and our students and community long into the future.”

Meeting Next Week

The next School Board Work Session will be held on Wednesday, December 9, at 6:00 PM, at the District Service Center Boardroom.  Items to be discussed and presented include:

  • A comprehensive 15-year facilities plan including updated costings and project timelines
  • Discussion about the voting process in accordance with state guidelines
  • Information on land and possible locations for a new high school
  • City/District partnership and collaboration

Upcoming Board Meetings

  • December 9 at 6:00 PM – Board Work Session, District Service Center, Board Room
  • December 21 at 6:00 PM – Truth in Taxation Hearing, Sartell High School, Media Center
  • December 21 following the Truth in Taxation Meeting – Regular School Board Meeting, Sartell High School, Media Center