CUBA CITY—Voters in the Cuba City School District will be asked to consider a two-part referendum in November.
At the Aug. 24 school board meeting, the board approved resolutions to exceed the revenue limits within the Cuba City School District to assist with operational expenses and an addition of a middle school wing to the elementary school.
The school board is seeking $200,000 for the 2017-18 school year and $300,000 for the 2018-19 school year and beyond through the recurring operational referendum. The money from this question will support educational programming, the retention of district staff and operational expenses that are currently being paid for by the school’s fund balance.
The second question seeks $8.9 million for a construction and improvement program consisting of construction of an addition for a middle school wing at the elementary school; remodeling, renovation and improvements, urgent code, maintenance, ventilation and air conditioning improvements at both the elementary and high school buildings; creation of a parent pick-up/drop-off lane and site improvements at the elementary school; and acquiring furnishings, fixtures and equipment. The construction portion will cost an estimated $7.4 million and will include five classrooms, two special education rooms, a science room, a band room, two bathrooms, two locker rooms and a gymnasium with seating for approximately 300 people. The parking lane is estimated to cost $300,000, leaving approximately $1.2 million to address the urgent code updates at the elementary school.
“We prioritized things,” Kevin Eperly of FEH Design, the Dubuque firm the school hired to assess the school’s facility needs, said. “We think the drop-off lane should be the first thing you do, and then the grades six through eight middle school wing at the elementary school is the second thing. The greatest need is classroom space for kids at the elementary school. Creating this middle school wing, detached, gives you the flexibility that 50 years from now it could stand alone as a building if you chose to tear the round school down in the future.”
The middle school wing would eliminate the students walking between both buildings. Depending on how the space is staffed, the teachers may need to be mobile to accommodate the change.
When the middle school moves out, a portion of the elementary could be remodeled to better accommodate the current enrollment in the building.
The $8.9 million referendum would cost households and businesses approximately $12 a month for the next 20 years.
“Over the last couple of years, the building and grounds committee has been trying to fix things and band-aid things for longer and longer,” district administrator Roger Kordus said. “We went to the next level to hire the experts to determine what to do. We all had a hunch that we had a lot of issues to address. It wasn’t until FEH Designs did the thorough study and confirmed our assumptions that we have a lot to fix.”
Kordus said he feels the plan that was presented will give the school the biggest bang for its buck with the limited revenues.
“This is a community-driven plan,” Eperly said. “It’s a long-term vision and this is the first step in the long-term vision. We can’t afford to do it all at the same time. We have to look at the most urgent components of that long-term vision. Then we need to look at the most logical sequencing to get there. This is the most logical and most urgent first step for your needs, and it is supported by the community.”
FEH Design also recommended the school tackle some of the energy efficiency projects at the high school through Act 32 funding, a state statute that allows schools to exceed the revenue limit for energy efficiency projects.
“Pick off the obvious things that give you the best payback,” Kevin Eperly of FEH Design said. “It might be wall insulation on the north wing. It might be roof insulation in some places. It might be replacing some mechanical units.”
Eperly said the plan addresses all of the nine goals that were addressed at the beginning of the project.
Eperly said there were 359 responses to the survey. They hoped to have 300, so they thought the turnout was good.
Eperly discussed the results in detail at a facilities committee meeting on Aug. 22. He said there were quite a few who took the survey who did not know the needs of the school buildings or how those buildings currently operate.
The survey consisted of 19 questions that covered the awareness of the needs of the school district, the amount of a referendum that would be supported and the projects that should be pursued.
Eperly said from the survey, it was determined that the public would support a referendum that would increase taxes by $12 a month. The average home in Cuba City is valued at $130,000, which would factor out to approximately $9 million that the community would support. After calculating other items, FEH Design recommended keeping a referendum under $8.9 million.
The survey comments also signified that the public would not fully support creating a competition-sized gymnasium.
“It will be a tough sell,” school board member Jerry Pettitgoue said. “You really have done nothing to alleviate the crowded conditions of the phys. ed class at the high school. I’m disappointed.”
“The biggest thing is fitting our project within the amount of money people have stated they would feel comfortable spending,” school board member Terry Terpstra said. “My personal opinion is that we need to make sure that we have the classroom space.”
Physical education teacher and coach Jeff Pustina also expressed his disappointment with the design that was presented.
“I brought this forward to the building and grounds committee one year ago,” Pustina said. “I’m not totally sure how this fits. Certainly it alleviates some of the issues we talked about. If you’re going to build a gym, you’re still leaving the high school gym as an updated gymnasium with minimal seating.”
Eperly said the gymnasium could be designed to be expanded in the future.
“We would have to spend $25 million to get everything done,” board president Gary Andrews said. “We’re pretty much leaving the high school untouched. It could be a second phase project down the road.”
The school has two debts expiring soon. In 2018, approximately $111,540 will be paid off. In 2024, an additional $466,900 will come off. School board members thought it might be wise to wait until then to pursue other projects.
“What started all of this is they were very short of space in the grade school trying to meet both the teacher and student needs with trying to find space,” school board member Terry Loeffelholz said. “That’s why we’re looking at additional classrooms. The phys. ed. classes were crowded and constrained, which led to investigating the gymnasium as well as the classrooms.”
Kordus was pleased with the amount of feedback the school has received throughout the process.
“Many of us are very aware of the many needs of our school district,” Kordus said. “We also understand we can’t address all of our facility needs at once. We need to do what we can now and continue to plan for the future. The proposed plan is a first step towards a long-term plan to assure we are able to continue providing the educational experience that each of our students deserve.”
Loeffelholz acknowledged that the process has moved very quickly. He said he felt the referendum would be better supported in April. Eperly disagreed, stating that the higher voter turnout at the November presidential election will give the school the best chance to pass. Both Terpstra and Pettitgoue voted against the resolution to ask the two questions at a referendum.