A $ 7.8 million bond for construction on the Ely Elementary School campus will be put to the vote on December 1st after the Rugby Public School board approves it at a special meeting on September 22nd To be submitted to voters.
The unanimous vote took place after presentations by the directors of the Consolidated Construction Co., Inc. from Bismarck and the architecture firm Zerr-Berg from Fargo to the board of directors. Board members also heard from Rob DeMeuse, project manager and director of School Perceptions, Inc., Milwaukee, Wisconsin.
Prior to their vote to put the bond measure on the ballot, the board passed a resolution to issue the bonds for $ 7,870,000.
After the special session at the Ely Elementary Library, the board attended a second public presentation and question-and-answer forum in the school gym.
Using video conferencing software, DeMeuse presented both groups with information from a survey sent to approximately 1,900 residents in September, 97 percent of whom live in the rugby school district.
The company received 543 completed surveys, which is a 28 percent response rate that DeMeuse cited “Well.”
“I feel like I can make strong predictions from this data” DeMeuse added.
The survey gathered responses from rugby residents ages 18 to 65. 97 percent of respondents live in the rugby public school district. Two hundred and ten respondents are parents or guardians of students attending school in the district. Rugby residents made up 67 percent of those surveyed, with the remainder living in rural areas served by rugby schools.
DeMeuse said one to two thirds of respondents pay taxes on agricultural land. “A little less than a tenth owns property that is taxed as commercial property.” he added.
Respondents answered questions about whether they would support the new build on the Ely campus if it did not require an increase in property tax. They also gave their opinion on the quality of the education students receive in rugby schools.
The number of respondents was divided into groups. Two hundred and ten of the 543 respondents said they were parents of students in public rugby schools. Both groups of respondents also included school staff.
Overall, the groups supported a referendum on bonds on a proposal to expand and improve the Ely campus. DeMeuse said school staff, school staff with children in rugby schools and parents of rugby students were the most favored of the project, as he had expected.
“We said, ‘Would you support an eight million dollar referendum on bonds to complete the recommended plan at Ely Elementary as outlined in the survey, which is not a tax hike above current levels?'” DeMeuse said about the main question of the survey.
“If everyone who answers is put in the same bucket, you’re well over two-thirds. You are at 68 percent who said ‘yes’ to it. “ DeMeuse added.
Superintendent Mike McNeff said the district had taken into account the impending disbursement of an improvement in bond funding for Rugby High School in making its decision to start the Ely Project. Since the district would issue one bond while the other expired, property owners in the district would not see a new tax hike.
When deciding on the project, the district also took into account the availability of funds for primary and secondary school emergency aid (ESSER) from the federal government. The proposed construction would consume $ 1.3 million in available ESSER funds. The pension funds and federal funding would provide $ 9.1 million for the project.
McNeff informed attendees at the public meeting that the board had approved the issuance of the bonds.
According to DeMeuse, respondents generally gave rugby schools high marks.
Respondents were confident about the way the district handles money, how proud the schools are of their community, and the likelihood of respondents recommending the district to a friend or family member.
“Since we asked that question, I’m not sure if more people voted ‘very likely’ than in any poll.” DeMeuse said the recommendation question. On a scale from 1 to 10, where 10 is “most likely,” the average probability that a respondent would recommend public rugby schools was 7.5, with 35 percent saying they did “most likely” Recommended rugby schools.
Brian Berg, lead architect at Zerr-Berg, showed a model drawing and specifications for the proposed improvements on the Ely campus.
Berg said the plan would streamline student parking and drop off areas for buses and cars, replace the school’s cafeteria with a larger communal dining area, expand the playground and gym, areas for music lessons and performances, and a STEM (science, Technology, engineering and mathematics) laboratory. The plan also includes optional changes to special education classes, general education classrooms, play lawns, and a boiler. In addition, the new building has a raised roof to compensate for snow loads.
In the public question-and-answer session, Dave Bednarz, a member of Rugby City Council, stated that the city is investigating to bring natural gas to the area. Bednarz suggested that the board of directors could examine whether the building would be provided with natural gas connections.
Berg warned that the cost could change because of what he mentioned “A historical problem with pricing, material availability, labor shortages and the like. That happens with every project we are currently involved in. “ Berg blamed COVID for the unstable market conditions in the construction industry.
Mike Barsiness, Director Preconstruction Services at Consolidated Construction also answered questions.
Rugby business owner Brad Wangler asked: “That $ 7.8 million for the bond referendum, where did it come from? Is that the number we can come up with without having to raise taxes? “
“That’s right,” Berg answered. “As I understand it, this number does not increase the levy (which the schools receive) at the moment. Berg said the total construction cost, which is approximately $ 8.7 million, falls below the $ 9.1 total funding available for the project from the proposed bond and ESSER funding.
Berg suggested that the various means could be used to expand the spaces for special and general education classes.
After the district held the special bond election on December 1, entitled Question 1, the school board will tabulate the votes on December 14 so they can take the results into account at their regular December 19 meeting.