BP board approves ZED facility
BLOOMING PRAIRIE — The Blooming Prairie school board on Monday approved moving forward with a $13.1 million facility to serve students with emotional and behavioral disorders and autism spectrum disorders.
The facility is part of the Zumbro Education District (ZED), a partnership of seven school districts including Blooming Prairie, Byron, Hayfield, Kasson-Mantorville, Pine Island, Stewartville and Triton.
Superintendent Barry Olson said ZED is currently where the Alternative Learning Center is located in the old Byron High School. That building was going to be renovated or sold and there won't be room for ALC.
"There's a definite need for finding a facility for ALC and other programs," Olson said.
This has been on the table for two to three years at least, Olson said, but a site is still to be determined. It's likely the new facility will be at the current site or in Kasson.
Member Michelle Vigeland said ZED is "running out of space [and] numbers are increasing." Two years ago the district had extensive plans drawn up, she said, but the boards remain in preliminary stages.
All seven school districts need to be on board before proceeding to spend money on more designs. So far Hayfield and Blooming Prairie have passed resolutions to move forward with the project and to establish a funding mechanism, but Stewartville and Pine Island tabled the resolution for further discussion.
Member Kathi Peterson, who was attending her last school board meeting that evening, asked, "If one district does not approve tonight, is it back to the drawing board?"
Olson said that would be the case, but because boards are changing and getting new members, "they want to be sure the resolution keeps moving forward."
"By approving this are we locked in?" asked board member Jon Sunde.
Even after approving the resolution, there will be others to approve throughout the planning and construction process. Boards will have to approve going out to bid and the sale of bonds and before the final plans are approved there will be another vote as well.
"There's a lot of ways for this thing to be derailed," Olson said.
Olson said the tax impact would be "fairly minimal." The owner of a $150,000 home could anticipate an increase of $15 to $16 per year. All districts will share costs using a 20-year lease levy.
The board approved its levy limitation to be certified by the Steele County auditor by the end of the year. Overall the district's levy is increasing by about 14 percent.
The increase is due to the $2.01 million bond for elementary upgrades that was approved in October. There were also several legislative changes that aided to the increase.
About $424 per student will shift away from taxpayer obligation to the state with what is called local option revenue, which Olson said saves the district $29,000.
The upshot is taxpayers in the Blooming Prairie school district with the average valued home of $150,00 can expect the school district portion of their taxes will be about $548. Last year that portion was $506.
"It's been a pleasure," she said.