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After projects, District 833 left with $5M to spend

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The downside of an economic depression is that School District 833 had to cut the general fund budget and increase class sizes.

The up side is that, due to the decline in construction activity, bid prices for construction of East Ridge High School, classroom additions and improvements to Park and Woodbury high schools were considerably lower than expected.

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When construction is finished, there will be about $5 million left from the 2006 voter-approved bond referendum, according to assistant to the superintendent for operations Mike Vogel.

At the June 4 board workshop Vogel suggested the board appoint a task force to study choices and present recommendations. Current suggestions include:

n Spending all or some of the money on construction or improvement projects not in the referendum such as building a wind turbine at East Ridge.

n Holding the money in reserve to buy land for future buildings.

n Paying down existing bond debt to reduce taxes.

The district can't use the money for salaries or operating schools, according to Minnesota law, because voters approved construction bonds.

Depending on what the city of Woodbury decides to include in an ordinance regarding wind turbines, the district could be allowed to build a 10-kilowatt demonstration turbine for student learning for $125,000 or a 250-kilowatt one for $1.3 million, according to estimates.

Other suggested building improvements include using $2 to $6 million to supplement new heating and cooling systems in remaining elementary schools; adding electronic message boards to signs at middle schools for up to $150,000; adding building lettering with the 833 logo at elementary schools for up to $150,000, catching up with roofing improvements, or installing metal facia around the building edges at Woodbury High School for $600,000.

There is also a list of technology improvements costing from $1.5 to more than $5 million that includes computerized "intelligent" white boards for classrooms.

The board should consider whether long-term bonding should be used for technology that has a relatively short life expectancy, according to Vogel.

There is also a list of athletic-related improvements including contributing to marching band uniforms at Woodbury and East Ridge high schools.

Musical instruments could also be bought for secondary schools for up $300,000.

At some point in the future, the board will have to consider going to voters for a referendum to operate schools, said Superintendent Tom Nelson. The board should consider reducing bond debt, he said.

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Judy Spooner
Judy Spooner is the longest-serving staff writer at the South Washington County Bulletin. Spooner, who covers education and features in addition to writing a weekly column, has been with the newspaper for over 30 years.
(651) 459-7600
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