Frequently Asked Questions About The Election

 

Overview

 

+ Why are we voting on a bond referendum?

Residents will vote on April 10 whether to approve funding for the Board of Education’s plan to make investments in our schools, including new construction and renovation that will improve classroom education, health and safety and preserve the life of our buildings.

+ What was the outcome of the election?

Total Turnout: 9,802 out of 26,1100 (37.5%)

  • Question 1: 5,900 Yes (60.3%) / 3,892 No (39.7%)
  • Question 2: 5,390 Yes (55.1%) / 4,396 No (44.9%)
  • Question 3: 4,995 Yes (51.0%) / 4,762 No (49.0%)

Official election results can be found at https://www.crowwing.us/ISD181SpecialElection.

The Plan We Proposed

 

+ Has the school board adopted specific items that will be part of this plan?

Yes, the plan calls for the following improvements in three ballot questions:

BALLOT QUESTION ONE - $68 million

  • Build a new elementary school in Baxter;
  • Repurpose the existing Baxter Elementary building for an Early Childhood Education programming hub;
  • Renovate and expand at Harrison, Garfield, Lowell, Nisswa (including Early Childhood Education) and Riverside Elementary Schools;
  • Update the Washington Educational Services Building (WESB) for Brainerd Early Childhood Education programming, Fun 'N' Friends child care program, district administrative offices and the Paul Bunyan Education Cooperative offices.

BALLOT QUESTION TWO - $69 million

  • Major renovation and expansion of Brainerd High School North Campus to bring all 9th-12th grades under one roof, including updating classrooms, multipurpose, and collaboration spaces; improving the gymnasium and pool; and providing a 950-seat auditorium;
  • Renovation of South Campus building for the Lincoln Education Center, STARS and Transitions Plus programs, as well as maintaining the wrestling/locker rooms and district vehicle parking and servicing area;
  • Remodeling at Brainerd Learning Center to expand the alternative education programs;
  • Increasing safety and security at Forestview Middle School and addressing the drop-off and pick-up issues;
  • Deconstruction of the Lincoln Education Center building.

BALLOT QUESTION THREE - $8 million

  • Upgrade the proposed high school auditorium to a 1,200-seat performing arts center, encompassing an orchestra pit, lighting and acoustic updates;
  • Approval of Question 3 will be contingent upon the approval of Question 2.

+ Could buildings that the district has sold (Whittier, Franklin, Edison) have been part of the solution to our current school needs?

No. Each of those school buildings had issues that made it inefficient and/or ineffective to continue operating as a school facility and the amount of money needed for rehabilitation was larger than the Board of Education was willing to spend. For example, Whittier was a very small school with just one classroom at each grade level that would have been very expensive to continuing operating.

+ Can you just attach the north campus and south campus of Brainerd High School?

The issues we hope to address through major renovation at Brainerd High School go far beyond the safety and security concerns of having students going back and forth between two campuses every day. There are significant efficiencies to be gained by having the entire high school student body under one roof. In addition, if the high school vacates the south campus, then it can be repurposed for use by students in programs currently located at Lincoln Education Center.

+ Why are you proposing to deconstruct Lincoln?

The costs to address extensive maintenance needs, bring the building up to federal disability access requirements and renovate in ways that make the building safe and secure are too great to justify the taxpayer investment.

+ What will happen to attendance boundaries in the event of new and/or right-sized buildings?

The Board of Education would rearrange the attendance boundaries to balance the enrollment at each elementary school and to make the most efficient use of transportation services.

+ Does any independent agency review our plan?

Yes. The Board of Education is submitting a Review and Comment document outlining the specific plan, benefits and funding for the Minnesota Department of Education. They will complete their review prior to the referendum, and the Board of Education will hold a hearing to discuss their comments.

+ I heard that one option was to close all the elementaries and build one big school where the state hospital is.

One large building would reduce some operating costs. But we would lose the benefit of neighborhood schools, transportation costs would skyrocket, and many young learners would get lost in a school with 2,000 or more K-6 students. The Board of Education plan calls for us to continue to have six elementary schools.

+ What are you going to do with the high school farm?

The school district does not own the property located south of Brainerd. We lease parts of the property for storage and will likely continue to do so.

+ Is there an option to build an elementary on the Forestview land?

That is one of the options the Board of Education is considering, although there are other properties nearby that would also work for the new Baxter Elementary.

+ Why are you not building a new school to replace Harrison?

After listening to community input, the Board of Education determined that investments in the existing Harrison made more sense than constructing a new school.

Funding the Plan

 

+ How is a plan like this funded?

School districts have annual maintenance budgets, and also have levy authority and state funds that supplement the maintenance budget. The Board of Education has determined the existing funding can pay for roughly 35 percent of the cost of the plan. The additional funding will come from the sale of bonds, if local residents approve the three ballot questions. Learn more in this article from the Brainerd Dispatch

+ Why bond?

A bond is like a mortgage on your house, allowing all necessary investments to be made over several years but paying for the cost over 20-25 years. It is less expensive to address remodeling and repairs at the same time, and we avoid construction inflation by paying for labor and materials now instead of at some time down the road.

+ What is a bond referendum?

A bond referendum is an election that allows local residents to decide whether the school district should sell bonds to fund improvements in local schools. Without approval from voters, the Board of Education would have to rely on the normal maintenance budget for repairs.

+ Who buys these bonds?

Usually large investors who are looking for a very safe place to earn interest without the risk of the stock market or a start-up company.

+ If this plan is approved, will property taxes increase?

Yes. Here is a look at the estimated school-related property tax increase for the district’s median home value of $156,200, if any or all of the ballot questions pass:

  • Ballot Question One: Taxes will increase by $3 per month.
  • Ballot Question Two: $3 more per month.
  • Ballot Question Three: $1 more per month.
  • All 3 Ballot Questions: $7 per month for the owner of a median home in the district.

Homeowners, as well as owners of seasonal, business or agricultural property, can find out tax impact information for their property on the tax calculator at Blueprint181.org.

Click here to view chart

Click here to view chart

+ If the referendum passes, will all the money go to facilities or will any of it go to teacher development?

By law, the referendum proceeds will be dedicated to buildings. We would not be able to use any of the funds for operations such as professional development for our teachers. However, over the long term, investments in our school buildings to address maintenance needs and improve efficiency will likely allow more district operating dollars to flow to classrooms.

+ How much of the cost of the plan goes towards construction?

Between 80 and 85 percent of the cost of a typical school building project is used for construction. The other 15 to 20 percent goes for design, engineering, permits, legal work, land purchases and other professional services.

+ We’ve seen so many staff cuts, budget cuts – how can we talk about spending new money?

It is important that we find ways to invest in both adequate staffing and modern facilities. Under state law, the budgets for operating expenses and building projects are separate – we can’t transfer building funds to address operating needs.

+ If this passes, would there be another referendum or an operating levy for these schools?

There are two types of levies that voters approve – operating levies for the operating budget, and building levies for bonds for construction. The April bond referendum would be for building construction, expansion and renovation only. There are no current plans for an operating levy request this year.

+ If the secondary plan in Question 2 passes and the performing arts center in Question 3 doesn’t, can the performing arts center be financed privately?

Possibly, although that would require a large amount of fundraising to accomplish that goal. In addition, there would be additional costs incurred if it was built after work on the high school is completed.

+ Are we still paying for the debt on Forestview?

Our debt payments end in 2023 The proposed plan provides for smaller debt payments on the new facilities plan until we pay off our debt for Forestview, in order to keep the tax impact to property owners as consistent as possible.

The Election Process

 

+ Where and when is voting?

The polls will be open between 7 a.m. and 8 p.m. on Tuesday, April 10 at 15 locations in the school district. Early voting begins on February 23, 2018. You can find out more about early voting here

+ Why wouldn’t you put the referendum on the general election ballot in November?

After three and a half years of hard work, this plan is ready. The community is focused on making the right investments in their schools, and residents deserve a chance to vote on this plan. If we wait — even seven months — the costs of this plan will only go up. Just using normal construction inflation, every month we delay means another $650,000 in construction expenses. We believe that the modest expense of a local election is a worthwhile investment vs. the growing construction cost. If we wait until November, we will lose an entire construction season and gain another year of construction inflation. The State of Minnesota only allows school districts to hold elections on five dates during the year. We have picked the date that has best balanced when the plan is ready and the need to hold down future costs.

+ Do all three questions have to pass for the bonds to be issued?

No. Question 1 (the elementary school plan) and Question 2 (the secondary school plan) are distinct. If one passes but not the other, the Board of Education will move forward with the approved portion of the plan. Question 3 is not approved unless Question 2 is also approved, as it would be too expensive to expand the performing arts center prior to making other investments in the high school campus.

+ How do I vote if I won’t be in the area between February 23 [when early voting begins] and April 10 [election day]?

Voters can request an absentee ballot be mailed to them. The completed ballot must then be returned before the election. More details on this process and how to request a ballot can be found here. In-person early voting will occur at the Crow Wing County Courthouse between the hours of 8 a.m.and 5 p.m., Monday through Friday starting February 23, and between 10 a.m. and 3 p.m on Saturday, April 7.

Other Questions

 

+ How did all six elementary schools earn Blue Ribbons if the buildings are such a challenge?

We are proud that Brainerd Public Schools is the first school district in the nation to have all its elementary schools earn a National Blue Ribbon in 2014. That honor was achieved by teachers, students, parents and community members working hard on a unified, aligned curriculum over the course of several years. But this award recognized the quality of our education, not the quality of our facilities.

+ What is a controlled entrance?

A controlled entrance is one where access to the interior of the building is monitored and controlled. Most commonly, this is either a camera and buzzer system or an entrance into an office where a visitor would sign in before entering the rest of the building.

+ What does deferred maintenance mean?

Deferred maintenance refers to repairs that our buildings needed but we did not have the funds to pay for at the time.

+ Will you come talk to my church or other community group?

Yes, School Board members and the administration will talk with any group that wants to find out more about long-range school facilities planning and the plan residents will vote on in April 2018. Contact us here or 218-454-6900 to schedule a visit.

+ How much does the pool get used during the school day?

It is used periodically during the instructional day. The ability to use the pool during the day is hindered by the difficulty of getting to the pool from the locker rooms if a person has mobility impairments. The small size of the pool limits its use for swimming and diving athletic events. This plan will address those issues.

+ Will you use local people to do all this work?

Under state law, any project with a value greater than $100,000 must be publicly bid and awarded to the lowest bidder. Local preference is not permitted. However, local bidders would certainly be encouraged to bid on the project or obtain subcontracts for work.