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Ellsworth School Board to act on facility projects

By Barry Cain

School Superintendent

Over the past weeks, I have written articles about the school board’s process of evaluating a number of facilities projects at the middle school, senior high school and pool.

Our school board has initially recommended the approval of a number of facility projects that would address aging facility and mechanical needs while also taking advantage of energy efficiency opportunities. The school board will officially consider a resolution to address up to $6.7 million in projects at a special board meeting on Monday, Aug. 25, at 6 p.m. in the senior high school cafetorium.

In 2009, Wisconsin Act 28 created an opportunity for school boards to increase their local revenue limit to fund energy efficiency projects to reduce utility costs over time. During the 2010-2011 school year, our district funded a small number of these projects under this authority.

In 2011, our legislature modified this process by passing Act 32. This act expanded the types of projects school districts could fund while also allowing school districts to fund projects through long-term borrowing. Many districts have since followed this process to assist in addressing many aging facility needs. Districts very close to us would include Prescott, St. Croix Central and Baldwin-Woodville. The vast majority of the proposed projects qualify under this act.

The proposed projects address aging mechanical, heating and ventilation systems, roofing, window replacement, etc. Addressing our building security needs has also been a major focus of the Ad Hoc Facilities Committee and the board as whole. Some of the security items do not qualify as Act 32 projects. The school board has committed to completing the security projects through the use of fund balance in order to bring all of our buildings’ security to modern day expectations.

The pool dome is also one project that has been included and does qualify under Act 32. The pool dome is aging and needs to be replaced very soon. The dome has served us well. but is worn and has reached its suggested life expectancy. It is essential we address this project at this time or in the very near future. The option of putting a permanent structure over the pool was studied, but seen as very cost prohibitive.

The timing of these projects is an important factor. Due to decreasing debt payments, increased state aides for this upcoming school year and the expiration of the levy override this year, the district can levy about $1.8 million of these projects this year and have the local school taxes stay stable. The remaining amount will be financed on a short term loan to allow the district the flexibility to focus on options to our elementary facility needs.

This process has become very common in school districts around the state as facility needs grow. It allows for long term investment in our facilities while also improving the educational environment for our students, staff and community. This study has been a part of our overall work for over two years. Within a community-based process, we have carefully assessed a variety of options through a lens that will most effectively address the active and increasing community use, security needs and long term functionality of our aging facilities.