Richland School Board Meeting 1/4

The Richland School Board conducted its most extensive meeting yet as it prepares referendum questions for voters to consider this spring.

The bulk of the four hour meeting dealt with refining the focus of the projects the questions will deal with and how those will be presented. Last (Monday) night the board was assisted by Carol Wirth of Wisconsin Public Finance Professionals – the organization hired to guide the district in the referendum process, and representatives of LaCrosse-based HSR Associates which is helping the Richland District develop building plans and cost estimates for the proposed projects. The board’s focus was on three primary areas: a recurring operating referendum for Technology; and borrowing referendum questions for Building Maintenance & Improvements; and Site Safety & Security.

The areas that garnered the most discussion were the Technology and Safety & Security. As presented, the proposed projects involved with Technology would cost $415,000 – however it was learned at the full board level Monday night that it would cover the costs associated with expanding the 1-to-1 device initiative at the Richland Middle School and Richland Center High School, and largely not help alleviate other current technology needs in the district. Board president Paul Corcoran questioned why more wasn’t being asked for in the Technology question which would ultimately free up funds in the district’s operating budget. In the end the board voted to increase the Technology question to $475,000.

The Safety & Security conversation wasn’t necessarily about whether or not projects totaling over $3.3-million to upgrade entrances at district buildings were needed, but where in the list of priorities those projects fall for voters. The third area – Building Maintenance & Improvements – was altered slightly Monday night. The board elected to remove proposed renovations at Rockbridge Elementary totaling $300,000, but the board chose to add $30,000 for Doudna Elementary playground equipment – for a proposed total of $60,000 – and $20,000 more for playground equipment at Jefferson Elementary for a grand total of over $40,000. In total, the Building Maintenance & Improvements is an estimated $5.1-million. Within that total are a host of roof projects and a major replacement of the high school track surface.

In the end, the Richland School Board decided to formulate three questions. With the assistance of Carol Wirth and the district’s legal counsel, those questions will be drafted, with the Richland School Board expected to certify them for the ballot at its next meeting in two weeks.

In other action during the Richland School Board meeting last night, the board heard from Middle School Principal Dave Guy and Southwest Partners representative Dale Bender. The two are working to implement the Safe Routes to School Grant which would connect walking and biking trails in-and-around the city – most notably providing safe pathways to the Richland Middle School and Doudna Elementary. The “Safe Routes” would be one piece of a larger $2-million Transportation Alternative Grant that Southwest Partners are developing. When the final costs are determined, it's figured the school district's responsibility would be about $30,000 to $35,000. Bender and Guy's focus Monday night was encouraging the district to adopt a resolution of support to help the project move forward. That resolution will be brought forward at the meeting on the 18th.