Less than 30 attend community meetings
By Angie Landsverk
Members of the Weyauwega-Fremont School District learned about the proposed remodeling and addition at W-F High School during public meetings last week.
District Administrator Scott Bleck presented the planned improvements for the high school, as well as the proposal for a new entrance and office addition at Fremont Elementary.
The first presentation took place on May 24 in Weyauwega and the second one the following evening in Fremont.
About 20 people attended the first meeting, including members of the administrative team and two school board members.
Two parents, members of the administrative team and one school board member attended the meeting at Fremont Elementary.
Those who were at either meeting saw detailed plans, for a project with a total estimated cost of $22 million, including $21.2 million for a project at the high school and a $399,432 for a project at Fremont Elementary.
The high school proposal includes adding a 400-seat auditorium, a multi-purpose gym, four classrooms for science and remodeling the high school office area, art and technology education areas and locker room areas.
A new forum area would be created as part of the remodel.
That space could be used by several classes, as well as for meetings and presentations.
A larger weight room and fitness area would also be created during the remodeling portion of the project.
At Fremont Elementary, the addition would be built along James Street and move the reception area and principal office there.
As the main entry to the school, it would also include a lobby and conference room.
Bonding needed for project
When communities propose projects of this size, they seek funding through referendums, Bleck said.
Debt free since 2010, the school district’s current mill rate is $8.32 per $1,000 of property value.
“We’ve been in a strong fiscal standpoint since then. The mill rate has been low,” he said. “The project we are talking about would press the mill rate upward.”
The district’s present mill rate is lower than the state average of $10.25 and is also lower than the rates of the district’s peers, as well as those of neighboring districts, many which are in the middle of bond periods now for projects, Bleck said.
The district is projecting a 2016-17 mill rate of $7.81.
The projected mill rate for the district in 2017-18 is $7.35 without a project and $10.36 if there is a $21.6 million referendum, which would be a 20-year bonding for a project.
Both Bleck and Business Manager Drew Niehans stressed that the mill rate projections are based on property valuations, state funding and student enrollment.
“The mill rate changes every year,” Niehans said. “These numbers are projections based on right now.”
He also noted the district is using $1.4 million from its fund balance for this year’s HVAC projct at Weyauwega Elementary and will also look to use funds from that balance in the future for other possible projects, including new windows at Weyauwega Elementary and new classroom furniture throughout the district.
This month, the W-F School Board will discuss a potential referendum question for the November election, Bleck said.
“From the end of June until November, we then would amp up the communication process,” he said.
He made that comment after Bruce Brunner – noting the attendance the first night – asked how many more public meetings will be held.
“We need much more awareness,” said Brunner, a former Weyauwega alderman who was involved in the city’s recently completed expansion and addition to its municipal building.
The district’s study of its facilities and its educational analysis and community engagement took place during 2014 and 2015.
“Everyone has been invited to the community sessions. This is very typical of the referendum process,” said Dean Beeninga, a partner and architect at ATS&R.
ATS&R is the Minneapolis-based firm the district hired in early 2014 to complete a long-range facility study for the district. The firm also developed the latest renderings for the district.
Beeninga told community residents it will be up to them to get the word out about the project.
Bleck said 60 to 90 days before the potential vote, information could be shared at communities throughout the district and with civic groups and churches, as well as through mailings and more meetings.
“I don’t think we will have to struggle with voter turnout,” he said of the upcoming November election.
Beeinga said the school board and administrative team may only supply information about the project.
“They can’t tell people to vote yes,” he said. “What has to happen is a yes vote, a get out the vote group has to come out of the community. It’s a tremendous effort to pass a resolution.”