Medford Drama Department presents ‘A Year with Frog and Toad’ Board sets plan for high school maintenance work
With the failure of the recent referendum, the Medford school district administration is looking at ways within its budget to deal with major infrastructure needs at the high school.
What this will mean for longterm future budgets is shifting funds away from classroom instruction into buildings and facilities maintenance. For now, the district is looking at using some existing borrowing capacity in conjunction with federal stimulus dollars in order to get close to a million dollars of priority projects completed.
According to finance director Audra Brooks, the district is eligible to receive $1,077,818 in ESSER II funding, but she cautioned the federal rules on what exactly they can do with that money are incomplete and she is continuing to research this. One that she said was clear will be for the district to apply $200,000 of it to the district’s information technology budget and allow that money to be switched over to the district’s maintenance budget.
Under state law, school districts have the ability to borrow up to $1 million without a referendum. The district in the past used this to address a retirement shortfall and the purchase of land and has paid it down to the point where they have the ability to borrow $760,000.
Buildings and grounds director Dave Makovsky developed a plan to address major issues over the next few years. He presented this plan to members of the school finance committee on Monday afternoon.
Major projects for the 2021-2022 school year include: $130,000 in roof repairs, replacement of two large sections of asphalt in the west parking lot for $182,715, $200,000 for the first phase of replacing the galvanized pipe in the high school and $225,000 to replace a leaking boiler. These projects combined with other smaller ones total $990,915 in cost.
Brooks suggested that they may be able to tap into the stimulus funds for some of the heating projects including the potential for the replacement of the boiler, but needed to do more research.
During the finance meeting, and later during the regular board meeting, Fleegel raised concerns about using all of the borrowing ability leaving the district
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without any capacity if they had a need come up later.
Brooks developed options for payment plans ranging from five years to 20 years. The longer the district takes to pay off the money the more interest will be paid overall for it. Her projections were based on the very conservative estimate of 3.5% interest. By comparison Taylor County recently borrowed $5 million at a rate of 1.478%. Brooks explained that the debt service for this borrowing would not impact the levy because it would have to be absorbed within the district’s operational budget. Under a 10-year repayment plan, the district would have to use existing budget dollars to cover $88,335 in additional debt service cost.
Board member Don Everhard noted that with interest rates so low, now was a good time to take on debt to get projects completed.
Another option to get projects done would be to go back to voters next year with a referendum for the maintenance projects, however, there were doubts of how receptive the community would be to those after the previous referendum failure.
Board member John Zuleger questioned where the school’s safety upgrades fit into the maintenance plan. “How do you see safety being addressed,” he said.
“This board values safety,” said board president Dave Fleegel. However he said the failing roofs and leaking boilers presented more pressing concerns for the district.
“Lack of maintenance on things only causes more expenses,” said board member Steve Deml noting that the inflation on the repairs and material costs is higher than the interest payments would be.
Board member Don Everhard suggested that addressing these projects with budget dollars could also show district residents that the board is making a good faith effort to get them done without a referendum, suggesting this may make a future referendum more likely to pass.
In other business, board members:
_ Received word that under federal stimulus money free school lunches would continue through at least the end of the 2022 school year. This represents a significant savings for families of school aged children. As part of the program, the district will once again be delivering meals to homes of school-aged children over the summer with a once-weekly delivery schedule with a week’s worth of
_ Approved a plan to pay down previous referendum debt early and in the process save district taxpayers about $42,000 in interest savings. The district has kept the tax rate level over the past few years as property value in the district increased, applying the additional revenue to pay off the previous debt. “This was done with the sole intent of paying down debt and saving the taxpayers money,” Fleegel said.
_ Formally rejected a donation of $645 from Fleegel who announced the donation when he called a special board meeting on the mask issue earlier this month. Board member Cheryl Wibben said she felt that meeting was worthwhile and disagreed with Fleegel saying he would pay for it. Board member Brian Hallgren said he did not like the appearance and unintentional message that the board meeting could be bought. He said he did not feel Fleegel was attempting to do this, but that he could see it being an issue in the future if allowed to stand. Under district policy the board, by majority vote, can reject any donation. Fleegel voted against rejecting the donation and said he would find another way to give the money to the district stating that he felt it was important to do since he values himself as being a man of his word.
_ Approved using food service reserve
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funds to purchase a $45,000 dishwasher for the Medford Area Middle School. The current dishwasher is about 25 years old and was moved into the existing building from the old middle school. Makovsky said it was costing the district more than $4,000 a year in repairs to keep it running over the past few years. Food service reserve funds can only be used for food service related expenses.
_ Approved a proposal to have Crabbman’s Driver Education of Wausau take over the district’s drivers education program. With the retirement of the district’s longtime drivers education instructor, Medford was looking at the potential of no longer being able to offer classroom instruction in the school or the ability for students to take behind the wheel instruction during study hall. District administrator Pat Sullivan said working with Crabbman’s would provide a DPI certified instructor as well as behind the wheel lessons at the same price as students’ families paid previously.
_ Went on record that the RVA is the best option for those seeking virtual learning in the Medford school district and that they would not be looking at offering the type of hybrid learning that was done this year with some students attending classes via Zoom and others in the classrooms. “We want to be face to face where people sit in front of students,” Sullivan said.