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Nevis board approves school bonds

The Nevis School Board approved the sale of $2.445 million in construction bonds this week, hiring the firm of Contegrity Group of Little Falls to provide construction management services for the ECFE addition, high school classrooms, band room, custodial area and boys locker rooms.

Work is expected to begin in April, with clean up and landscaping finalizing the project in September.

Betsy Knoche of Ehlers presented the bond pre-sale report, noting interest rates are at the lowest in 40 years. "I'm not sure this will ever happen again," she told the board, stating she was "excited" for the district and the decision to move forward with improvements.

The school board will award the sale of the bonds Jan. 28. The debt service will be paid from property taxes payable from 2013 to 2026.

Members of the board interviewed five construction management firms, narrowing candidates to two finalists, including R.A. Morton of St. Cloud.

"It was a tough call," board chair Ed Becker said. "It boiled down to money."

By using a construction management delivery system, the district has input on using local contractors. A Contegrity person will be on site at all times.

The total cost of the contract with Contegrity Group is $115,200. The fee for services is $45,000. On site supervision cost is $11,700 per month, which can be prorated for a partial month.

The firm is currently working on the Hubbard County Law Enforcement Center remodeling project to house Social Services. The project is being completed on time and is under budget.

In other action, the board:

n Approved the final 2013 levy of $850,558. This is an increase of $125,855 from 2012's $724,821.

Rassier, convening a truth in taxation hearing, explained the board established a preliminary levy payable 2013 of $811,271, which was an increase of $86,569 from this year's levy.

The increase was due to a "disabled access" levy of $80,000 to cover the cost of constructing handicap accessible bathrooms and a concession stand at the athletic complex.

The passage of the levy in November with the use of a wrap around debt structure requires an interest only payment in fiscal year 2014 of an estimated $51,000. This increase in debt service is decreased by $15,468 (over the next three years) by refunding the 2006 bonds.

"The good news is we can subtract the $80,000 in 2014," superintendent Steve Rassier said.

He pointed out the levy is based on 525 students, but this number is now at 552, which will increase state aid.

The 2012-13 budget was approved in June with total revenues of $5,937,020 and expenditures of $5,961,341, he explained. General fund revenues were estimated at $5,209,756 with expected expenditures of $5,191,590.

This budget will be revised in January to reflect revenue changes as a result of increased student enrollment and additional expenditures in several areas, including transportation and special education.

The budget will also reflect the $2.945 million construction project. A $500,000 grant from the Minnesota Department of Human Services brought the bond referendum amount to $2.445 million.

"It's a balanced budget," Rassier emphasized. "Even with state issues (withholding aid) the district is financially solid, and doing a good job of educating kids," he said, citing the district's designation as a Reward School.

The "fund one" balance of $1.5 million exceeds the 20 percent reserve as established by board resolution, Rassier pointed out.

n Reported bus radios will be installed over the Christmas break.

Rassier attended the recent city council meeting to request installation of a bus radio repeater on the water tower. The 8-foot antenna on the school roof covers a 20-mile radius; the coverage area would double atop the tower.

The city is consulting with engineers, who suggested a lease agreement to address liability issues and power usage.

The issue was tabled at the city level.