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Highland School Board prepares for bond issue

GTNS photo by David Hotle

Kevin Kurka, a mechanical engineer from Design Engineers discusses plans to install a single HVAC system at Highland school to replace multiple environmental systems being used.
GTNS photo by David Hotle Kevin Kurka, a mechanical engineer from Design Engineers discusses plans to install a single HVAC system at Highland school to replace multiple environmental systems being used.

Members of the Highland School Board want solid estimates and a check of the roof of the Highland School before moving ahead with a bond referendum to replace the environmental control systems in the school.

During a special meeting Thursday evening, the board had the opportunity to examine a proposal for a bond referendum from the district’s buildings and grounds committee. The goal would be to replace multiple environmental control systems in the Highland building with one Heating, Ventalation and Air Conditioning (HVAC) system. The bond would also be used to resurface the school’s playground surface and make improvements to the school’s fine arts area.

“We are looking at about a $2.6 or $2.7 million bond,” Superintendent Ken Crawford said. “Since the casino came off the TIF, tax rates are going to go down and if we fill that with the same rate, no one will see a tax rate at all. That is a rare scenario, for a school district to run a bond issue and taxes aren’t going to go up.”

While the amounts aren’t solid yet, he believes the amount being bonded for would be about $3 per $1,000 of assessed valuation. He also said the tax rates in the district have dropped about $3 in the past few years.

The committee has been exploring installing an HVAC system over the summer. The committee had been asked to study a plan to consolidate the school’s environmental systems in one unit. Currently, there are eight different units controlling the climate of the school. The HVAC system is expected to cost about $2.2 million. During an informational gathering meeting, people surveyed were unanimous in preferring rooftop HVAC units, committee member Mike Jorgensen said.

During the meeting, mechanical engineer Kevin Kurka explained the proposed system and answered questions from the board. He said a geothermal system was also considered, but rejected for cost reasons.

During discussion, Kurka said he had not examined the roof before making the decision to use rooftop-mounted units as part of the plan. The board said the roof would have to be studied to ensure it could stand up to the weight of the units before the bond issue went to the public.

The board is expected to decide whether to start a petition to call for a bond referendum during its Dec. 10 meeting. If approved, a petition will be circulated for signatures to ensure public support of the issue being on the ballot. Crawford said he hopes the issue can be voted on in August 2019. If approved, construction would begin in the summer of 2020.

“We want people to have time to hear about the issue and understand it,” he said.