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Department Name


La Crescent-Hokah Public Schools

Frequently Asked Questions (“FAQ”) on the Upcoming Referendum

The School Board will be asking taxpayers to consider a facility initiative that includes the construction of a new elementary school and remodel work and updates to the oldest portions of the high school. After years of study and careful review including a comprehensive needs assessment, work and recommendations from a community facilities task force and a recently completed feasibility survey, the School Board has developed a plan to address the long term facility needs of the District, and most importantly, to support the learning needs of our students.

This “FAQ” document is a work in progress. As more questions are asked, and more information becomes available, this document will be continually updated. As always, if you have questions not answered here, or if you would like further discussion on an item, you are welcome to contact the District Office at 507-895-4484 extension 1484 to speak with Superintendent Ron Wilke.

What will happen to the existing elementary?
The School Board posted and sent out requests for proposals for the sale of the existing elementary site this past summer and has reached a purchase agreement with Springbrook LLC contingent upon a yes vote on the January 6 bond referendum. The Springbrook proposal will develop senior housing on the elementary site that will include independent living, assisted living and memory care. The proposed development would add $12-14 million to the tax base on property that is currently not taxed and create 40-60 new jobs in the community.

Benefits to the School District and its taxpayers from the sale of the elementary property are stated as follows:

  • The proposed development on current school district owned property would result in the conversion of tax exempt property to taxable upon the sale to a private entity.
  • The increased net tax capacity will result in a larger tax base over which to further distribute the total school levy.
  • Any increased market value resulting from the development will be new value growth the school district will benefit against the referendum market value.
  • Creation of new senior housing in the community generally provides life cycle housing opportunities in which young families with children are able to locate in single family homes that have been vacated by seniors as they are able to move into the new housing, thus providing student growth for the district.

Why did the Board choose to bring one option forward for the referendum?
After nearly 10 years of study and careful review, the School Board is moving forward with a ballot question asking to build a new elementary school on district-owned Abnet Field and to remodel the sections of the high school originally constructed in 1965. The work and actions that have led the board to the plan being proposed has included the following:

  • District Facility Needs Assessment in 2007
  • Two Facility Task Forces to Advise the Board
  • School Board/City Council Combined Meetings & Collaborative Efforts
  • Request for Proposals for the Sale of the Elementary School
  • Feasibility Survey of Registered Voters in the Fall of 2013

From this work, the School Board has developed a plan to address the long term facility needs of the District and our students. Increased school security, technology upgrades, and aging building infrastructure are among the identified needs. We have aging facilities in our District. We also have an elementary school that was designed to support learning in the 1950’s and a high school only one decade later. It should also be noted that concern for the safety of students at the existing elementary site has increased with recent plans for retail development on Oak Street directly across the street from the elementary. Click on this link to view a table of options considered throughout the years of Board study.

The Board elected to bring one question to the voters asking to build a new elementary school on Abnet Field and to remodel the oldest sections of the high school in order to provide the highest level of clarity and transparency to communicate and develop voter understanding with regard to the facility needs in the District.

Can we afford this/what is the tax impact?
In the Fall of 2013, the District conducted a feasibility survey of our residents to help determine the level of support for a facilities improvement plan.  The survey was aligned with the demographics of registered voters living within the school district.  Elements of the proposed projects were tested in the survey.  The survey also tested tax impact, the results of which indicated strong voter support for a plan with an annual tax increase of up to $79 on a $100,000 of residential property value.

The School Board considered needs and recommendations from the Facilities Task Forces to develop a facilities improvement plan that would address the highest needs in the district.   The Board then developed a bonding option that maximized State equalization (amount of the cost paid by the State of Minnesota) and consistent with the findings of the community survey conducted in the Fall of 2013.  

The total cost of this project, including financing, has been approved by the Minnesota Department of Education and is comparable with school district projects throughout the state of Minnesota

What is the tax impact to the individual property owner and will it change over time?
A tax calculator is available at in the “Referendum Central” section of the website, which includes calculations for all types of properties including residential, commercial, agricultural, and seasonal/recreational.  Enter your Taxable Market Value (not Estimated Market Value) to determine your estimated tax impact.  You may also call Patty Heminover at Springsted, Inc. at 800.236.3033 to have your tax impact calculated.

It should be noted the total cost of the project, including financing, is the maximum dollar amount to impact taxes. The bonding finance package approved by the School Board and the Minnesota Department of Education calls for a tax increase at year three and again at year twelve. A portion of the proceeds from the sale of the elementary school will be utilized to eliminate the bond referendum increase slated for year three. Assumptions supporting the design of the finance model are based on no increase in the taxable market value in the school district. Any increase in taxable market value will have a positive impact on the increase scheduled for year twelve. An example of a factor that would increase the taxable market value would be the addition of the 12 to 14 million dollar senior housing project planned for the existing elementary school site.

Enrollment has declined in the District. Why are we proposing to build a larger elementary school?
All rooms in the existing elementary are occupied. The current elementary, with a 1950 design, does not include adequate space and/or spaces designed to meet the learning needs of students with special needs. The current elementary also lacks space for individual and small group instruction for students who may need additional support for reading and math instruction, as well as to meet the needs of students who learn more quickly. Currently, instruction to support these additional student learning needs takes place in hallways, storage rooms and in an old shower room. In addition, the current elementary does not have adequate space to support early childhood programs that include the District’s Discovery Preschool, Head Start, and Early Childhood Family Education.

The proposed Pk-4 elementary is slightly larger than the existing elementary with the intent to provide additional space to:

  • Support learning for students with special needs
  • Increase the ability to differentiate and teach to all levels of student learning
  • Support the District’s inclusive preschool program
  • Meet the needs for additional gym space across the District
  • Support and expand Community Education programs for all residents of the District

The proposed projects to build the new elementary and remodel the oldest sections of the high school will address concerns for building security, student safety and relieve stress on District budgets by addressing expensive roof, plumbing, electrical, HVAC needs and technology upgrades. The proposed projects will provide our District with facilities comparable to school facilities throughout the region and support the learning needs of our students well into the future.

What about the ongoing operational costs in the district?
The proposed projects could actually lead to cost savings in the District. The new elementary school will be a more energy efficient building. Utility bills for the new elementary are projected to decrease from current expenditures. The high school project should also lead to greater energy savings through the replacement of the original boilers with new high efficiency systems.

As is the case with the majority of Districts in the State of Minnesota, the District will continue to rely on a local operating levy. As stated above, an increased tax base as a result of the developments associated with the sale of the existing elementary school could lessen the tax impact on individual property owners for both the bond referendum and ongoing local operating levy.

Why hold the referendum in January?
The Board needed adequate time to plan the final project to take to the voters, prepare information for the ballot, determine the financing and tax impact and meet State Statutory obligations to seek the approval of the project through the Minnesota Department of Education. In addition, time was needed to develop a purchase agreement for the sale of the existing elementary school in order to inform voters on the sale and re-development of the existing elementary site prior to the referendum.

Where will the Applefest grounds go?
The School District remains committed to Applefest and the long standing traditions the festival brings to our communities. School District, City, and Applefest officials met recently to discuss alternative locations for Applefest should the referendum pass.  A number of ideas to meet needs were discussed, including Veterans Park.  The City indicated Applefest could have the opportunity to provide feedback to the City regarding their needs as that park is slated for redevelopment per the City’s comprehensive plan.  

What will happen to the ball fields at Abnet?
The current site plan for the new elementary school on Abnet includes one ball field and the School District is collaborating with the City of La Crescent in consideration of alternate sites for ball fields. One option that has been considered to date is at Veterans Park in conjunction with the proposed community event center.