By Jason Arndt

Hampered by the state funding formula and faced with facility improvement needs, the Randall School Board unanimously authorized two referendums at its Jan. 11 regular meeting, according to District Administrator John Gendron.

The two referendum questions, which will be on the April 3 ballot, seek taxpayer permission to exceed revenue limits by $675,000 for non-recurring purposes annually for the next three years and to borrow $5.5 million to address building needs.

The two questions apply to the 2018-19 school year.

For the operational referendum, according to Gendron, the district plans to use the funds to maintain services and improve educational opportunities.

“We are in year three of our three-year operational referendum that Randall has had,” Gendron said. “We knew going in that given the trend around the state, once districts start needing operational referendums, it turns into a cycle.”

Last year, hundreds of districts placed operational referendums on the ballot, including Salem Grade School.

Randall is not the only area school posing the question on the April 3 ballot. Wheatland Center School is also requesting an extension of its operational referendum.

The current Randall referendum, which is set to expire upon conclusion of this school year, is for $460,000, but Gendron said the district continues to see budget shortfalls caused by a decline in revenue from the state.

In the last 10 years, Randall School has experienced a cut of more than $1 million in state aid, or 38 percent.

“We haven’t gotten anymore money from the state, in fact, we have gotten even less, so we have to replace that money.”

Gendron, touting the school’s report card the last four years, said passing the operational referendum is critical to continuing the route of success.

“We are very proud. This is four years in a row where our school report card has gone up,” Gendron said. “We are one of the few districts around here that has seen growth every single year.”

“It is basically to maintain what we are currently doing for our kids in the community,” he added.

For the capital improvement referendum, the school looks to replace aging infrastructure.

Long-range plan
With assistance from engineering firm McKinstry and Scherrer Construction, the school developed a list of facility needs, Gendron said.

The first need involves adding four classrooms.

“We are out of capacity on our elementary side,” said Gendron. “We do not have a single open classroom on that side.”

To accommodate more students, the district reconstructed some storage areas last summer.

“Our enrollment has grown by 40 kids this past summer and we may even experience more growth,” Gendron said.

The school plans to use one of four classrooms for STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) instruction where officials plan to introduce a Project Lead the Way curriculum.

“Right now we don’t have Project Lead the Way, so we are really excited about that,” he said.

Other areas targeted for improvement include expansion of the cafeteria, which does not have sufficient seating for all students, he said.

With expansion of the cafeteria, the school looks to use it as a multi-purpose room for the community.

“Our building is used almost every night,” Gendron said. “The expansion of that cafeteria will allow our community groups to also come in and use the facility for large group needs and presentations.”

Although Gendron reports no recent safety issues, the school will reconfigure the middle and elementary school entrances, which does not have a secure way to screen visitors.

The plan, according to Gendron, is to create a vestibule similar to Wilmot Union High School, where staff greets visitors as they arrive.

Additional improvements include replacing the elementary school roof, which has been leaking, a new chiller or HVAC unit, and some cosmetic upgrades.

Cosmetic upgrades involve replacement of 25-year-old flooring on the junior high wing and cabinetry and sinks, which are about 40 years old, housed in elementary school classrooms.

The last item on the facility improvement agenda will involve removing the stage in the gym and installing more storage space.

Community promise
Gendron said the effect on the mill rate will be an extra 44 cents per $1,000 of property value if both questions are passed.

“Our promise in the next three years is, we are promising that the mill rate is not going to go above $6.88,” he said, stating the district followed through on its guarantee when taxpayers passed the operational referendum.

In 2014-15, the year before the current referendum passed, the mill rate was $6.61, and has dropped to $6.44 entering the 2017-18 school year.

Residents with a home valued at $200,000 are projected to spend an extra $88 in the first year, but will not see additional increase in succeeding years.

The district plans to hold public information meetings regarding the referendums at 6 p.m. on Feb. 12 and March. 7.


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