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Richland School Board Meeting 12/7

The Richland School Board held its most comprehensive meeting Monday night in preparation for a near-certain school funding referendum in 2016.

District Administrator Jarred Burke said that a lot of work has gone into developing a list of possible projects a referendum could address. Among those are improving the entryways to the buildings; addressing necessary building, remodeling, and deferred maintenance projects; and improving technology throughout the district. He said that they continue to work with a fluid document of projects until the final list of priorities can be identified for the referendum. At last night’s regular meeting, officials from HSR Associates – an architectural, engineering, and design firm out of LaCrosse – presented its initial designs and rough cost estimates for the entry ways and major maintenance projects in the district. The entryway projects carry an estimated price tag of just over $4-million. The project designs include secure and clearly-designed entryways at all of the buildings and district office, and a major reconfiguring of the parking, traffic, and bus patterns outside Doudna Elementary at a cost of just over $1-million alone.

The building, remodeling, and maintenance projects total approximately $5.2-million. Within that total is a $1-million roof replacement project at the Richland Middle School and an estimated $240,000 to replace the track at the athletic complex. All of those projects could be addressed with a borrowing referendum that could be extended out 20 years. HSR Associates cautioned that these figures are preliminary at this time, however they figured in a substantial 30% contingency until building plans are finalized. The final piece the Richland School District is looking to address through a referendum is the technology upgrades that would be an operating referendum at an estimated cost of $415,000 per year. Jarred Burke said that the district simply cannot make the technology advancements necessary for students without outside funding. He said the 1-to-1 devices that have been initiated at the Richland Middle School have been the result of grants and taking money from projects that have been delayed. Carol Wirth, president of Wisconsin Public Finance Professionals, presented the initial tax implications from the plans that were outlined Monday night.

She said that the net tax rate – should the entire $9.6-million be approved by voters – would conservatively increase 99-cents per $1,000 of property valuation the first three years, then drop to 78-cents the 4th year, and level off to 73-cents the 5th and subsequent years. Jarred Burke said a lot of discussion must still take place, including soliciting the opinions from members of the public. If the school board decides to conduct the referendum during the April election, the resolution to that effect will need to be finalized by mid-January.

In other action from the Richland School Board meeting Monday night, the board approved the Middle School 4H Club as a co-curricular with an unpaid advisor as to allow the district to provide the club with an activity account. The board approved the High School Course Description Guide for 2016-17. Approval was also granted to search and hire an individual to serve as Strength and Speed Coordinator for the calendar year 2016. And the recommendation was approved that lowered high school student athletic attendance from $2 to $1.