CLARA CITY – MACCRAY School Board members appear ready for a fourth time to bring a bond proposal to voters to upgrade school facilities.

Board members will decide Monday whether to conduct a new bond referendum in November. They also intend to decide Monday between two proposals: A $39.9 million proposal for a single-campus system; or, a $34.4 million proposal to maintain the three-campus system.

School board members agreed to put those issues on the agenda for their regular meeting next week following a work session Monday. They met with Mike Hubbard of ICS Consulting, which has developed preliminary facilities plans for the district.

Board members expressed their interest in holding a November vote after Hubbard reported on his company’s research. It showed that November bond referendums in odd-numbered years have the best chance of success when compared to February or April dates in even-numbered years.

Board members are also planning to ask voters to renew an operating levy in November. Bond issues paired with operating levy renewals have had an 88 percent success rate in the past 10 years, according to the research.

Both the single- and three-campus proposals under consideration include plans to develop a 500-seat auditorium on the high school campus in Clara City. Board members had initially considered asking voters to decide the auditorium issue as a separate ballot question. During discussions on Monday, they indicated support to include the auditorium as part of an overall facilities plan.

While they made no decision Monday, discussions indicated that school board members are likely to approve going ahead with a single-campus proposal in Clara City rather than a three-campus system that would include Maynard and Raymond. Board members weighed the pros and cons of both options during the work session.

They also reviewed support for a single-campus system from school administrators. The administrators prepared a five-page listing of efficiencies and educational improvements they believe a single-campus system would offer.

During board discussions, the list of “pros” generated by board members for a single-campus system outnumbered the “cons.”  

A single-campus proposal comes with a higher construction cost since it includes a new prekindergarten-grade 6 building. Both proposals include renovations to make possible a middle school program on the high school campus.

ICS Consulting estimates that a single-campus system, in the long term, will save the district $425,000 annually in operating costs. Hubbard outlined expected savings in utilities, staffing and travel. Some of the savings are based on staff reductions that would occur through attrition, so they would not be realized immediately.

This coming Monday’s decision over a single- or three-campus system will likely involve debate, as there are differing views on the board.  

Board member Deb Brandt expressed concerns about the single-campus proposal. She noted that Maynard and Raymond would each lose elementary schools. “It’s a complete loss for two communities with one campus,” she said.

Board chairman Lane Schwitters cited the educational benefits of a single campus. He said he believed it had the best chance of winning support from the district’s farm community, which represents 82 percent of the district’s taxable value. He said he’s heard from many farmers who said they prefer a single-campus system due to the efficiencies.

Board members said they are hopeful of support in the farm community due to the agricultural tax credit provided homestead farmland. Due to the credit, the state would pay $13.1 million of the district’s capital costs for the project, according to Hubbard.

The consultant described the new, single-campus facilities plan as being similar to the $38.8 million single-campus proposal rejected by 105 votes in 2017. Voters rejected a $20 million single-campus proposal by 334 votes in 2014.

A $56.1 million three-campus proposal was rejected by 258 votes in 2018.