CLARA CITY — MACCRAY School Board members intend to have a project oversight committee in place in December to begin planning for the $39.9 million in facilities improvements approved by voters Tuesday.
Superintendent Sherri Broderius said busy times are ahead as the district readies to develop a new elementary school, a 500-seat auditorium, add a career and technical education center to the high school, and develop classrooms for a three-section format. She said ICS Consulting of Blaine expects a six-month planning process as the current “rough draft” for a single campus in Clara City is developed into a working plan. Bidding could occur next spring and summer, with hopes of a groundbreaking in the fall of 2020, according to initial plans.
The goal is for the project to be completed in the fall of 2022.
There will be disruptions, especially since the project includes remodeling in the high school building. The high school remodeling work will likely occur in the summer of 2021. The school will need an early out in the spring of 2021 and a later start in the fall because of it, she said.
“In the end, the voters spoke to us, didn’t they,” said Broderius of the referendum results. “So we move forward on those wishes.”
The Tuesday referendum marked the fourth bonding question put before MACCRAY voters for improvements to the district’s facilities. Two previous proposals called for a single campus, as is the case now, and the last rejected proposal called for maintaining all three campuses in Clara City, Maynard and Raymond.
While it can be hard to know what made the difference this time, the superintendent said she heard three main points raised most often.
One, she said the Ag2School tax credit mattered. It will pay 54 percent of the overall costs for the district, including 70 percent of the bond cost for 17 years of its term. “I heard farmers say we almost can’t turn this down,” she said.
The credit enacted by the Minnesota Legislature reduces the tax burden of school construction bonds on ag lands by having the state reimburse districts.
Secondly, she also heard lots of people say “it’s time to get this done.” After three failed bond issues and more than five years of debate in the district, people wanted to move forward, she said.
Lastly, the superintendent said she heard from many people who felt the district’s efforts to inform voters about the project were successful. They appreciated how the information was presented and how the district responded to questions as they arose.
Broderius said MACCRAY School Board members were careful to listen to the questions people were asking, and made sure they were answered. When it was realized that there were many who did not understand the Ag2School credit, the district sent out easy-to-understand information on it.
She said that it was just as important to inform the general public about the Ag2School credit as it was to inform farmers. Many people are empathetic to the fact that farmers in the district are responsible for 82 percent of the overall tax burden. They wanted to know that this credit would actually help, she explained.
The school’s challenge ahead, she said, will be to keep residents in the district informed about the progress of the building plans and construction as things move forward.