Several members of the district's facility task force met with the school board on Monday, Nov. 13, to discuss different ways to raise funds to help cover the shortfall.
Work on the new fitness center and 499-seat auditorium started in June 2000. Work is expected to be completed in June 2001.
District voters approved a $3.4 million bond issue a year ago, in November 1999. The bids last May came in about as projected, leaving the project's finances tight from the start.
Air conditioning was bid as an alternate to the project, but the board hoped the bids would be low enough to add it. With the bids coming in as estimated, this did not leave any room in the budget for the board to squeeze $75,000 to install air conditioning. Cuts to save money were explored.
The board decided air conditioning was essential to having a first-rate project, and so the board approved cuts to help pay for it in June.
Five of the seven items were reinstated at the next meeting, after the construction managers reviewed their budget. The district raised extra money by issuing small levies. The board issued a $68,000 levy to pay for ventilation upgrades in the basement locker rooms, and $25,000 for the elevator shaft under the American Disabilities Act. The state provides matching funding for part of the ventilation project.
The board was also persuaded to rescind the cuts by the extra income the district is expected to receive from interest on the bond money and because cuts on the project finishings could be made later.
The financial situation took a hit in August. An $83,000 oversight in the accounting of the bond issuance expenses was discovered then, which - combined with the cost of air conditioning - put the project about $150,000 in the hole.
"There were errors made along the way," said superintendent Howard Caldwell. "We can't pin the blame on anybody."
The board charged its architects and construction managers with getting the project back on budget. Since then, some ground has been gained, but the financial statements handed out at the last board meeting still indicated a project deficit of $90,000.
The majority of the changes being made to the project will not be noticeable. These areas can be completed as the district finds the dollars, Caldwell said. "The bottom line is that items needing completion will be done first," he added.
Storage cabinets were eliminated from the scene shop as well as the fitness center to save money. There will be space for trophy cabinets in the lobby, but the actual cabinets will have to wait.
Lockers were removed from the dressing rooms, and hooks will be installed to hang coats and clothes.
The walls in the storage area, dressing rooms, makeup rooms, and custodial rooms will not be painted. The floors will be sealed instead of using floor tile.
Also, by going to standard white tile in the fitness center bathrooms, more than $2,000 will be saved.
Another $20,000 was saved by changing the special brick design on the upper portion of the auditorium. Instead of extending some of the brick out from the wall, like the 1969 structure, all the brick will be flush with the wall. The design should look the same from a distance.
The board also opted to seed the lawn around the addition instead of sodding.
The only change inside the actual performance hall will be the omission of flame retardant on the seating. The seating will be more comfortable without the flame retardant, according to architect Troy Miller. "With the retardant, it would be like sitting on cardboard," he said.
One option for the board is to use money from the capital facility fund. Chairman Pat Flanders reminded the board that the district still has $100,000 in that fund.
Flanders and the board hope not to use that money, as it is also needed for repair projects in the current buildings.
The district is short of money in its general accounts as well. The district has had a deficit in spending for the past three years. This is the fourth year of deficit spending.
Over the past two years, the district spent nearly $800,000 more than they received. This year the district has a deficit budget of about $500,000.
The school board is holding a special meeting on Monday, Nov. 27, to explore possible program cuts. That meeting will be held in the elementary media center at 7:30 p.m.
With funds short for the project, and at school, the board has opted for fund raising. Since the public is already paying for the project, the board felt it was fairer to let people choose to give more to the project.
One fund raiser Ñ which will get start before the end of the year Ñ will ask district residents and alumni to buy a seat in the auditorium. The task force agreed to ask $150 for a Silver Club seat and $250 for a Gold Club seat. Donors will have their names displayed on plaques in the auditorium, possibly in the lobby.
Another suggestion was to ask people to donate money for free weights in the fitness center. Five dollars per pound was suggested.
All donations would be voluntary and tax deductible.
The district has already received a $20,000 donation to be used toward the sound system in the auditorium. They also received a small donation for weights in the fitness center.
The district has submitted an application for an Otto Bremer Foundation grant to assist in equipping and staffing the new fitness center. The district requested $48,372.
Another area of need is the scene shop. At present, it will be a bare room. The scene shop could use storage cabinets and tools. Donations, both monetary and used items, could be used.
Members of the task force will meet with the board again next week on Tuesday, Nov. 28, at 6:30 p.m. They will discuss more fund raising ideas and develop a strategy for selling seats in the auditorium.
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