One board member votes against
PRESCOTT – At a special meeting held Wednesday, Dec. 1, the Prescott School Board voted 4-1 to ask voters to approve a $15 million facility maintenance referendum at the April 5, 2022 election.
The board approved 4-1 the initial resolution authorizing general obligation bonds in an amount not to exceed $15 million, which was the recommendation of the district’s 11-member Facilities Advisory Committee (FAC).
Prior to the vote, the board held a workshop for 1.5 hours in closed session to discuss the three options presented by the FAC (outlined below). Option 1, costing $15 million, addresses items considered high, definite and low priority. Another option was for $19 million and addresses all facility items on the list, while the third option for $12.6 million addressed high and definite priority items only.
Board Vice President Steve Sizemore voted against the referendum question and the April 5 date.
He began his explanation with an apology, then launched into an analogy to help the public and his board colleagues understand his position.
“Let’s say you have a car and you know you need new tires, right?” Sizemore said. “And either you’re going to keep it for a year or you’re going to keep it for five years. You know you need to know how that affects price, type of tires, performance of tires, what you’re using the tires for, right? In my opinion, you don’t know that information yet. We don’t know that the car is going to be used for a year or five years. I don’t know how it’s going to be used.”
Sizemore questioned the district’s lack of what he considers a master plan for the dis-
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trict’s four buildings (Malone Elementary, grades K-2; Malone Intermediate, grades 3-5; Prescott Middle School, grades 6-8; and Prescott High School. He pointed at the decision two years ago to move third grade to Malone Intermediate School (1220 St. Croix St.) and that he voted against that too.
“I voted no against that because we don’t have a plan,” Sizemore said. “We don’t know what the buildings are going to be used for.
“So I agree the buildings have needs. I agree a referendum is going to be needed to take care of these needs. I agree there are unknowns, that we can’t account for every issue, every dollar that we’re going to need to deal with in the future. But I can’t support this referendum without a clear plan. We can’t educate the community if we don’t have a plan. I don’t want to present a sales pitch to the community. I want to put facts in front of them, details and problems so that it’s an easy sale.”
Board Clerk Pat Block responded that he agrees there’s no “all-encompassing” master plan, and at some point, space capacity problems at PMS, unused space issues at MIS and deferred maintenance will all need to be addressed. He said he has enough information, in his opinion, to move forward with the referendum.
Board Treasurer Tanya Holub said the board has talked extensively about the building’s potential uses and information from the community survey, in which a majority of respondents want the district to maintain the four buildings.
“So for me, regardless of what that’s (PMS) used for, we still have maintenance things that need to happen within that building,” Holub said. “And it might look a little different, what it’s being used for but nonetheless, it still has needs within that building, whether it’s district offices, whether it’s classes, whether it’s whatever it is.”
Sizemore countered that knowing a building’s specific plan should determine how much money goes into it. He doesn’t believe that question can be answered without a master plan.
Board President Mike Matzek jumped in and said while the board hasn’t formally adopted a master plan, the community survey and multiple discussions have dictated a possible direction in which PMS would be a two-grade building, MES would be K3 and MIS would be 4-6.
“It’s not written in stone and nor should it be because we need to be flexible with how we change and how things change within our district,” Matzek said.
This referendum is about taking care of the district’s capital assets, Matzek said, making sure they’re operational and functional. It’s not necessarily about grade configuration at this point, but asset protection.
He added that MES and MIS will probably be used long-term and if any building were to be “sunsetted,” it would be PMS. However, that is that not even a consideration at this point.
Holub asked Sizemore why he didn’t bring up his concerns in the 1.5-hour closed session workshop prior to the vote.
“Because that would have been a really good time for us to go, ‘OK, let’s talk about this more,’” she said.
Sizemore said the public needed to hear his concerns, so the open session was the appropriate time.
Board member Vicki Rudolph, who along with Block sat on the FAC, said she openly told the FAC that the buildings’ uses aren’t set in stone, but taking care of them is.
“My hope is that we get people from the community who can step in and help the board come to some of these decisions or least give us direction,” Rudolph said.
With the housing boom currently going on in and around Prescott, decisions made on building use today might not hold water tomorrow, she said.
“We need to be flexible and work with what we have,” Rudolph added.
Superintendent Dr. Rick Spicuzza said Quarles and Brady, the legal arm for bond sales, will review the revised ballot language and documentation. The formal resolutions will be voted on at the Dec. 15 regular board meeting.
At the Nov. 17 regular board meeting, FAC members Brady Randolph and Veronica Wittig presented three options for referendum totals to the board for consideration. The FAC, which had been meeting throughout the fall to examine building needs such as new roofs, HVAC, building envelope and tuckpointing, electrical panels, air filtration systems, etc., narrowed down and prioritized needs.
Their recommendation to go to referendum for $15 million would address high, definite and low priority items over the next 10 years.
In Fall 2020, a community survey showed taxpayers’ tolerance to be about $16 million.
The FAC agreed tuckpointing, the MIS roof and asbestos abatement are all high priority items. Wittig said the FAC had “great conversation and healthy conflict” when trying to prioritize needs.
Lower priority items include HVAC upgrades, ADA compliance and the PMS electrical system. Items deemed no priority were paving repair and replacement. The FAC was divided into two groups, which went over the proposed needs line-by-line.
If the community approved the $15 million referendum, it’s important to note that the tax impact will be $0, meaning it will not raise people’s taxes. This is thanks to pre-paying a bond early last year, which saved the district almost $1 million. The mill rate for next year would not change with a $15 million referendum. This is assuming the district would received 3 to 3.5% interest rates, when in reality, school districts have been getting closer to 1%, Spicuzza said.
The highest priority project is the MIS roof, Buildings & Grounds Supervisor Mike Hoikka said. A roofing inspector evaluated the roof Nov. 16 and confirmed that. No matter what, the projects would be spread out over multiple summers in order to avoid classroom disruption.
School board candidacy
Two seats will be open on the school board for the April election: Matzek’s and Rudolph’s. Those interested in running must file declarations of candidacy no later than 5 p.m. Jan. 4.
If more than four candidates run, a primary election will be held Feb. 15, 2022.