Mark Taylor
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The Gardner Edgerton School Board approved a resolution to annex future a school property into city limits on Aug. 15.
Gary Diener, director of operations, said the property purchased from the Mistele family is currently in the county’s jurisdiction and is surrounded by properties already annexed into the city.
The property is located west of Moonlight Elementary on Grand Street between Center Street and Moonlight Road.
Annexation is required for water, sewer and electric utilities service to the site, Diener said, which the district is purchasing for a new elementary and middle school as part of a $72.790 bond issue that will go before voters in January.
Diener said the annexation is being requested as a “proactive” measure on the part of the school district that would save about two months in the planning process
“While one might question why the district is leading this (annexation) process,” he wrote in a memo to the school board, “the simple response would be the district has more at stake to ensure it is accomplished in a timely manner. Neither the city nor anyone else would sense the urgency to aggressively promote this process prior to a successful bond election.”
The school board on July 11 authorized a $1.429 million purchase agreement for 39.22 acres to accommodate the new schools.
Diener said the district plans to close on the property after “wetlands issues” are resolved within the next week or two.
He said the property could be “shovel-ready” by February of 2012.
The land was purchased with a temporary note in advance of the bond issue.
Gilhaus said at the time that if the bond election isn’t successful; the district will have to pay off the note within 42 months using capital outlay funds.
Gilhaus added that the schools will eventually be built either as a proactive or a reactive measure to meet the needs of future student growth.
In other business, the school board adopted a 2011-12 budget that includes a 1 mill tax increase.
No patrons spoke during a public hearing on the budget.
The budget proposes a 1 mill increase in the property tax levy, from 81.54 to 82.54 mills. But based on declining averaged appraised home values in the district, the average taxpayer will pay about $36 less in school property taxes for the 2011-12 school year.
Eric Hansen, business manager, told the board last month the owner of an average $153,041 house – which fell in appraised value from $158,782 the previous school year, would pay about $1,452 in 2011-12 school taxes compared with $1,488 the previous year.
The school district is facing a 2.2 percent decrease in assessed valuation, following a 4.1 percent decrease in 2010-11 and a 5 percent decrease in 2009-10.
From 2009-2010, the mean appraised home value fell 2.5 percent from $162,771 to $158,782 in Gardner and declined 3.38 percent from $110,120 to $106,617 in Edgerton.
Despite drooping home values, the school district’s student population continues to grow.
Hansen said the district’s demographer is projecting a 4.5 percent growth spurt in 2011-12, but that number will not be finalized until headcounts and weighting factors are established on Sept. 20.
One of the “more significant components” of the 2009-10 and 2010-11 budgets, Hansen said, American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) federal economic stimulus dollars, of which the district received $1.712 million in 2009-10 and $440,424 in 2010-11, will no longer be available in 2011-12.
Likewise, state aid per-pupil funding is the lowest it has been since 2000. The district is expected to receive $3,780 per pupil in 2012, which equates to a $4.585 million loss in 2011-12.
Hansen estimated that as long as there are no more cuts in the base state aid during the 2011-12 year, the district’s general fund budget authority is expected to increase by $992,000 to $27.94 million.
Hansen said a “positive note” in the 2011-12 budget is that the district’s Local Option Budget (LOB) authority is expected to increase by $409,609 – from $8.970 million in 2010-11 to $9,380 million in 2011-12 – as a result of Senate Bill 84, which “decoupled” the LOB from the general fund budget.
The district is facing $11.431 million in 2011-12 bond and interest payments, compared with $11.2 million the previous year.
However, staid aid for bond and interest has increased from 25 percent in 2009-10 to 30 percent in 2010-11 and to 35 percent in 2011-12.