Recap of proposed school district building project

This article submitted by Linda Stelling on 12/8/99.

(Editor's note: School district voters will be going to the polls on Tuesday, Dec. 14, to decide on a $3.4 million building proposal that includes an auditorium and fitness center. Voting will take place at the Paynesville Area Elementary School west lobby from noon to 8 p.m.

The following are synopses of stories featuring aspects of the previously published in the Press. These articles were written by Linda Stelling and Michael Jacobson, who also served on the facility task force.)

Auditorium
The proposed auditorium will be about 7,600 square feet (stage and seating area). The stage will be large enough to accommodate a band for a concert performance.

The floor in the auditorium would be tiered, like stadium seating. There would be 16 rows of seating from top to bottom. Each row would be about nine inches higher than the previous row. The difference in elevation would be 12 feet from the top row to the front row.

The staggered seating will enable people in the auditorium to look over the shoulders of the people in front of them. Paynesville native Troy Miller, project architect, said the auditorium seats will not all be the same size. Some of the seats will be designed wider for larger people. These seats will be scattered throughout the auditorium.

The distance from the front thrust of the stage to the center of the auditorium will be about 45 feet. The person sitting in the front row will be three feet lower than the stage floor.

The plan calls for the sound and lighting system controls to be located in the center of the auditorium.

The mechanical units—air exchange, heating, lighting, and possibly cooling— will be housed in an overhead area above the lobby between the gym and auditorium.

Miller said the new auditorium will be self-sufficient. There will be bathrooms, and a scene shop. The plans are designed so the new facility can be closed off from the high school during after hours activities.

The new lobby will be located between the auditorium and the high school gym. The hallway between the fitness center and auditorium is designed to be a new entrance into the school for sporting events. The new entrance will be located close to the north parking lot.

Fitness center
The second part of the building proposal is a 2,900 square foot fitness center.

The fitness center will measure approximately 46 by 66 feet. The room should be able to handle a class of 35 students.

The fitness center will have space for 14 fitness stations, free weights, and an office. The north wall will feature glass windows for natural lighting. Across the hallway from the fitness center will be the new men's and women's bathrooms.

The ground floor access will provide easy accessibility to the facility from the north parking lot.

In the proposed budget, $75,000 is set aside to furnish the center with equipment. Fitness stations will include stair climber machines, exercise bikes, treadmills, and a selectorized weight system, which is similar to a universal gym. Free weights will be located in the center area of the room.

During the daytime hours, the fitness center will be used primarily by students. Before and after school, the center would be open to the community. A small fee would be charged for the fitness center usage to help cover the cost of a supervisor.

Four new tennis courts would be constructed between the school garage and vocational building this spring before construction of the auditorium and fitness center gets under way.

Finance and taxes
One of the selling points of the $3.4 million bond proposal is the state equalization aid. The program aims to help "property poor" school districts improve their facilities through state contributions. Our school district will issue the bonds for the project, and the state will make yearly payments to help retire the debt.

According to the formula, the state would contribute 46 percent of the money to retire the bonds each year. This reduces the local tax hikes for the project. (See the chart at left.)

To qualify for the state equalization aid, the school district must issue bonds for at least 20 years. The district's financial advisors, Ehlers and Associates, have proposed a wrap-around structure that would level out our debt payments over those 20 years. (The school district is still paying off the bonds from the 1992 middle school project. These payments will end in the 2016-2017 school year.)

If this project is approved, the school's debt will be extended by three years, so taxpayers can not expect to see these taxes go off the rolls until 2020.

The school district has a statutory bond limit of $29 million. Even with this project, the school would be $19 million below that limit.

(It should be noted that Ehlers and Associates' projections are based on the assumption of a 5.7 percent interest rate. The actual interest and debt will not be known until the bonds are issued.)

In addition to the state equalization aid, taxpayers could benefit from the Property Tax Refund, the Education Homestead Credit, and the Education Agriculture Credit. Property owners with less than $68,500 in income can apply to the state for the Property Tax Refund, which could return up to 80 percent of the tax increase.

Last year, the state Legislature approved tax credits for both farmers and homeowners. These should be auto-matically deducted from property taxes, yielding considerable savings for those who qualify.

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