Mitchell Board of Education leans toward June for potential bond issue vote
No official action taken Monday, further discussion on bond amount to be taken up at March meeting
MITCHELL — Though no official action came out of it, the Mitchell Board of Education's discussion on the potential Mitchell High School bond issue vote brought the next steps of the process a little more into focus.
The board discussed the issue at its most recent meeting Monday night, Feb. 13 at the Mitchell Career & Technical Education Academy.
The board is looking for a way to complete the full scope of the ongoing Mitchell High School construction project after it approved a $45 million base bid for a new high school building that will be constructed across the street from the current high school building on Capital Street. That building will replace the current structure, which was built in 1962.
Though the initial vision for the project included new athletic facilities to be constructed at the same time as the new high school building, cost increases derailed that plan and the board has been looking at a bond issue vote to help secure funds to complete the entire project.
That could be done with a bond issue, which would require 60% approval from the voting public. Discussion on the bond issue Monday night centered around the ins and outs of when to hold such a vote and some loose discussion on how much the bond would be for.
“(This discussion) would be centered around if you wanted to do a bond issue. At a future board meeting there would be a resolution to approve that if you so desired,” said Steve Culhane, business manager for the Mitchell School District. “And in that you would declare how much to ask for and when the election would be.”
All board members, including Shawn Ruml, who was present at the meeting by telephone, seemed in favor of moving forward with a bond issue to help get the athletic portion of the project done as soon as possible. They also seemed to indicate they would prefer holding the election at the June 6 joint city and school election.
Ruml said holding such a vote during an election that was already on the schedule would save the district money.
“I would prefer a regular election for the cost,” Ruml said. “I’d be for doing a regular election for the full amount of the athletic facilities.”
The district is looking at a cost of around $17 million to complete the athletic portion of the project, which would include new gymnasiums as well as upgraded facilities for other sports. Mitchell School District officials have said those facilities are in desperate need of upgrading.
With the board leaning toward a June election date, the exact amount of the potential bond and where the vote will officially take place is likely to be established during the March 13 meeting of the board.
Holding the election earlier than June could make it more difficult to complete some legal obligations that come with a bond vote, Culhane said. Moving up the election could require a special meeting of the board to ensure there is enough time between the resolution seeking a bond issue to get those obligations done.
“That allows for appropriate time for notifications, voter registration deadlines, and having absentee ballots available,” Culhane said.
A June vote would also allow the school district to organize information for public meetings that will likely be held to give the public a rundown of the project and why a public bond vote is needed to complete the work.
Joe Childs, interim superintendent for the district, said he has already discussed building a page on the Mitchell School District website that could include frequently asked questions about the project and its financing, timetable, tax impact and other pertinent information district patrons may find useful.
“Should the board decide they wanted to move ahead, I have visited with the district technology coordinator so that the public will have as much information as possible to community members,” Childs said. “I’m thinking of it as a one-stop spot where they could see what the implications would be, such as tax rates.”
Brittni Flood said she would also like to see a June vote in order to give the district time to distribute information on the project.
Feb. 13 Mitchell Board of Education Agenda by inforumdocs on Scribd
“It’s important to be able to get the information out there to the public. That way they can see where we’re at in the process and what we need to get done,” Flood said.
Terry Aslesen, another member of the board, agreed. In addition to being able to get information about the vote out to the public, more time between the resolution and the vote could get more people out to the polls when it comes time to vote.
“I also think it makes sense to wait for June,” Aselsen said.
At the January meeting of the board, administration suggested asking the public to pass a $20 million bond issue in order to add the athletic portions of the project. Going by today’s interest rates, it was estimated that it would cost taxpayers around $45 per $100,000 of taxable valuation to the homeowner’s school district portion of their total tax on property.
The exact tax impact would be determined by any official bond resolution. Should the board ask for a $17 million bond issue as opposed to a $20 million bond issue as originally suggested, the impact on the taxpayer would be less, Culhane said. The $20 million suggestion was just a starting point for discussion, he said.
“When we threw out the $20 million, that was just a number,” Culhane said. “That would be about $45 to $50 on a $100,000 tax valuation. If we go less, the tax would be less.”
Several members of the public spoke up during the discussion, including questions about the district not doing an engineering evaluation at the current high school building to gauge if it was a good candidate for renovation as opposed to new construction, among others.
Also at the meeting, the board approved the following personnel moves:
- The new classified hire of Scott Mullenmeister, head girls soccer coach, $3,494, effective 2023-24 school year.
- The transfers of Kim Brenden, 5th grade teacher at L.B. Williams Elementary to 3rd and 4th grade teacher at L.B. Williams; Susan Dodd, kindergarten and 1st grade looping classroom at Gertie Belle Rogers Elementary to begindergarten/Title at Gertie Belle Rogers and Katelynn Clement, 2nd grade teacher at Gertie Belle Rogers Elementary to kindergarten/1st grade teacher at Gertie Belle Rogers Elementary. All transfers are effective for the 2023-24 school year.
- The resignation/retirement of Stacey Morgan, 3rd and 4th grade teacher at L.B. Williams, effective end of 2022-23 school year; Donna Ellingson, administrative assistant at Mitchell High School, effective Aug. 1 and Mary Pranger, special education paraeducator at L.B. Williams Elementary, effective May 2023.
- The resignation of Tom Berg, robotics advisor, effective end of the 2022-23 school year and Sherri Becker, curriculum director, effective June 7.
- The Mitchell Technical College new hire of Jerry Brink, adjunct commercial drivers license instructor, $35 per hour, effective Jan. 9, 2023.
- The Mitchell Technical College resignation of Joe Brtna, diesel power technology instructor, effective May 30 and Carmen Neugebauer, financial aid assistant director, effective June 30.
Also at the meeting, the board:
- Recognized the Mitchell High School gymnastics team, which brought home its eight state title recently.
- Heard a report from the Mitchell Chamber of Commerce.
- Approved membership agreement in Eastern South Dakota Food Buying Group, Year 6
- Purchased a lot for the Mitchell Technical College student built house #111
- Declared Mitchell Technical College site house surplus in order that it may be sold by sealed bid sale.
- Approved quit claim deed on property no longer being used by the school district as a school house.
- Approved signing a petition to vacate the alley on the south end of Lot X.
- Approved the 2023-24 K-12 school calendar.
- Approved a bid for welding equipment.
- Heard board member reports.
- Heard the superintendent report.
The next scheduled meeting for the Mitchell Board of Education is March 13 at the Mitchell Career & Technical Education Academy.