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Ellsworth School Board to consider facility recommendations

By Barry Cain, School Superintendent

The Ellsworth School Board was presented with draft plans to address the facility needs of the district at its Oct. 14 regular board meeting. The presentation represented the work of the Ad Hoc Facilities Committee along with our construction manager and architect. The board will now consider the specific recommendations.

Since May, 2012, the Ad Hoc Facilities Committee for the Ellsworth School District has been working to develop plans to address the ongoing facility needs of our school district. This committee was developed through a school board goal as a way to involve community members, school board members and staff in the process. The PowerPoint presentation viewed with the final recommendation is available for viewing on the facilities page of our school district website at I encourage all residents to take a look at this information and the findings of the Ad Hoc Facilities Committee as a whole.

Current proposals provide for a referendum this upcoming February with an estimated cost of $29.45 million. Initial estimates for the yearly tax impact of this proposal indicate an additional $127 on a $100,000 home. The overall plan creates a true campus that will house all of our students and educational programs. This is accomplished through a number of projects including:

--The building of one elementary school to house our four-year-old kindergarten through grade five students. Plans call for this school to be located directly east of the senior high school at a cost of about $23.5 million. This 108,000 square foot building would have a capacity of 800 students.

--Site work on our campus that will increase parking and reconfigure athletic, phy ed, playground and community spaces. Also included in the proposal is a “campus road” to improve busing traffic and allow for improved access to evening school and community events. ($3.9 million.)

--School security measures to include reconfiguring the middle school and high secure school entrances in which all visitors will check into the buildings while also providing for new key card systems to better secure our buildings. ($400,000)

--Re-location of the current transportation garage to an off-site location to provide for space needed to address our school building, maintenance and outdoor space needs. The estimated cost of land acquisition and new construction is $1.3 million. A major point of emphasis along with this is the yearly operational savings the school district will see through the ability to go to a common start time for all of our students and one bus route. At this time, it is estimated the district will see six-digit yearly savings with one bus route.

The timing of this proposal is also important for our public to understand. A major factor is the district’s debt payments associated with the middle school building and the high school addition drop dramatically after this school year and are completely paid off in 2017. With this decrease and current low interest rates, we are able to bring this project forward while minimizing tax increases our public will see.

The district also has the need to address the expiring ability to exceed the revenue limit expiring at the end of this school year. Current estimates indicate the district will be asking voters for the ability to exceed the revenue limit by $800,000 per year for three years. Over the past three years, the district has utilized only a portion of the $1.3 million per year that was approved by our public. The facility proposal and ability to exceed the revenue limit will appear on the ballot as two separate questions.

I hope this basic information regarding the current proposals provides a good starting point for our public to see how we are looking to address our current needs. Much more information will be presented to the public through a number of avenues to provide the information voters need to make a well-informed decision. The proposal addresses the needs identified by our Ad Hoc Facilities Committee through their work over the past year-and-a-half.

As stated earlier, I encourage our public to visit our website to take a look at the information available. I am proud of the work our Ad Hoc Facilities Committee has done and I thank them for all of their dedication as we look to address our aging facilities.