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The financial impact of the Prescott school referendum

PRESCOTT -- Prescott voters will have a big say on the future of its school district on April 1.

The District is holding a referendum for construction of a new high school, an auditorium onto the new high school and to exceed the levy override for high school operating expenses starting in 2016-17 through the 2019-20 year.

Superintendent Roger Hulne said if the new school is approved, construction will start this fall in time for the school to be open for the 2016-17 year.

The impact on the taxpayer will be steep, but as Hulne said previously, “I understand people not wanting to see their property taxes go up. But, at the same time, it’s getting expensive to keep kicking the problem down the road.”

The estimated tax impact for 20 years on the new high school on a $100,000 home will be $171 annually; the auditorium will be $35 and the levy override will be $16. For a $200,000 home those figures will double.  

Hulne said the $171 figure includes no hidden costs. In addition, the mill rates of $1.71 and $0.35 would be added to the current debt mill rate for the first 11 years of the bond until the existing debt is paid off in 2025. The final nine years of the bond would remain at the same level as the combined debt, resulting in an even debt mill rate for the 20-year bond repayment period.

Hulne said other financial variables led the District to pursue this referendum --- construction costs remain reasonable, interest rates are at nearly historic level, state aid is favorable based on current property levels, district finances are very strong, the district’s debt is the lowest in the area and the school tax levy is the lowest it’s been in five years.

If the referendum is approved, Malone Elementary would house Kindergarten through grade 3 and Early Childhood Special Education (currently at Joy Lutheran Church), the current Middle School would be grades four and five and community uses, the current High School would be grades six through eight and the new high school would be grades 9-12 and the Alternative High School (which is also at Joy Lutheran).

The cost for a new high school will not exceed $27,980,000, auditorium is $4,260,000 and the levy override is $110,000. Currently, the District is a $1,460,000 levy override for two more years.

The District explained the $110,000 figure was equated by costs such as staffing to maintain student/teacher ratios, support staff, food service, and inflation offset by revenue as savings in rent and portable classroom costs (i.e. Joy Lutheran),  increases in state aid revenue and enrollment projections.

Hulne explained the high school question will determine everything, meaning if that question fails, everything fails.

Jason Schulte

Jason Schulte is a reporter for the New Richmond News since February 2015. Prior to that he spent eight years at the Pierce County Herald in Ellsworth. His duties with the News will include covering news out of Hammond and Roberts along with action from St. Croix County court system. He lives in Roberts. 

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