Over the last few months we have been taking steps to address the needs of the district through a variety of projects and initiatives. The first was addressing the needs of the exteriors of our facilities: roofing, windows, and other necessary maintenance projects to keep the building watertight. These projects were completed under Wisconsin’s Act 32 which allows for energy-efficiency projects to be completed by the district without a referendum. Funding for these projects were obtained through borrowing. The total anticipated cost was just under $2,500,000 of which $1,500,000 was provided at 0% interest through a government program. The projects will be financed over the next 14 years.
These projects were identified as immediate needs since our boiler system at the elementary school was the original steam boiler system that was installed in 1953. This system had exceeded its 30-year expectancy and was functioning at about 50% efficiency. The new hot water boiler system will approach 90% efficiency and the classrooms will experience higher quality air exchange and the new, quieter ventilators will improve the learning environment.. The second project was to replace the elementary roof. The previous asphalt roof had deteriorated to the point that we had multiple leaks that could no longer be repaired. The airflow in the additions and attic space was poor and we typically had ice-dams in our courtyard area that were over 24 inches thick at the edge of the roof. Transitioning to a steel roof will not only address the leaking, but also provide a much longer performance than any asphalt shingle could provide. The third major project was the upgrading of our electrical service at the elementary school. Here again, we updated the service that was originally installed in 1953. Parts for the electrical system were aging to the point of concern and replacements had become obsolete. The final major project under ACT 32 was the upgrade in our technology network. The state’s transition to online assessments and an increased district focus on 21st Century skills was deemed unreliable without this upgrade in infrastructure. Additional projects that were completed included the replacement of four doors that were rusting and corroding, addressing the “building envelope” by sealing cracks and replacing weather-stripping to reduce energy consumption and air infiltration and installing vending misers to reduce energy consumption.
Another project that was undertaken this summer was the renovation of the high school office area.
The budget for this project was $175,000. The primary focus of this project was to enhance security at the Middle/High school. Following the renovation, all visitors entering the building will be required to enter the main office before entering the hallways of our building. We were also able to centralize student-services and modernize the office area that was seen as cramped and outdated by visitors. The board of education approved this project to be paid through a limited expenditure of our district’s fund balance.
So, two different types of projects were undertaken by the district over the last few months. One was financed by ACT 32 and will be paid off over the next 14 years. The other was funded by the district and will not require any borrowing. Neither of these projects were undertaken without careful consideration. Equally important to understand is that the completion of these projects is quite different from our request for operational funding. These projects are long-term investments and somewhat “one-time” expenses necessary to maintain or improve our infrastructure.
At the August 21 board meeting two resolutions that will appear on the November 4 ballot were approved. The first asks for voter approval to exceed the state revenue limits. Without approval of the first question, the yearly deficits will exceed $600,000 within 3 years which would completely decimate the quality of education provided by our school. We would undoubtedly experience a loss of quality staff and a reduction in course offerings, extracurricular opportunities and fine arts programming. The second looks to secure up to $1,250,000 in funding for projects that will address our aging parking lot surfaces, dangerously congested traffic flow, the renovation of the high school library which was not designed to meet the needs of the 21st Century, resurfacing of the high school track to protect the $450,000 investment made by the district when it was installed and create a safer training surface for students and the community, upgrading of the bleachers and the possible construction of a softball field on school grounds. The fund balance will not be able to sustain our current programming and the decline in state aid coupled with the state-imposed revenue limit has led to the need for the district to request voter approval to exceed the revenue limits.
The Hillsboro School District has always benefitted from strong community support and we believe that as a result of this support an excellent education has been provided for our students. We have been and will continue to be good stewards of taxpayer funds.
More information will be provided through presentations and letters such as this over the next several weeks. I welcome your questions and look forward to helping everyone gain a better understanding of the upcoming referendum. Feel free to call or stop in to meet with me or our Business Manager, Mindy Lankey anytime.