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Frequently Asked Questions

A collection of Frequently Asked Questions is below. If you have have more questions, contact Superintendent Todd Lee at toddlee@rrcfalcons.org or at 507-752-7361.


New FAQ posted 10/22/20
How does the cost of the new Red Rock Central school compare to other school construction projects?


New FAQs posted 10/19/20
Did MDE get the review wrong, or did the school district?

What's wrong with our school?
Do we need an operating levy?
How will farmland be impacted?
Will the old building be demolished?


New FAQ posted 10/9/20
Is enrollment  increasing or declining?


Updated FAQ posted 10/9/20
How does this affect our Ag community?

New FAQs posted 10/5/20
What about the quality of materials to be used?
How can I learn more about the cost of construction and the current school building's condition?


New FAQ posted 9/29/20
We are a large school district. Why not choose a more central location? 

New FAQ posted 9/15/20
Response to Brandon Mattison newspaper advertisement, September 2020


New FAQs Posted 9/9/20
What happens if both questions are approved?

What happens if question 1 is approved and question 2 is not?
What happens if question 1 is not approved and question 2 is?
What happens if both questions are not approved?
Why did the tax impact change?
How do our taxes compare to our neighbors?
How can we maintain current offerings with a lower operating levy?
How does the tax impact vary for different types of property?
How do schools impact the community?


What is the difference between and operating levy and a building referendum?
Why did the Task Force recommend building new versus renovating? 
How does the cost of the construction of the new building compare to other new schools?
Were the community, staff and students involved?
Why did you close Jeffers if you need space?
I don’t have kids; how does a new building affect me?
Why do we need to make a decision now?
Why not wait until the Ag2School credit covers 70%?
Should we get more bids?
Can I deduct the taxes paid on my State and Federal Income Taxes?

 


What is the difference between and operating levy and a building referendum?
Bonds are for buildings, Levies are for learning.

When communities support an Operating levy, they are providing the district general funds to use for teachers’ salaries, textbooks, co‚Äźcurricular programs, transportation, computers, utilities and the general operation of the district.

On the other hand, a Bond Referendum provides districts dollars to make improvements to facilities and building infrastructure only. For example, bonds can be used for major construction such as renovation, building an addition, building new schools or for general building projects such as addressing deferred maintenance and ventilation deficiencies. Bonds however, cannot be used to hire teachers, buy textbooks, or for the operation of the district such as utilities. 

Question 1 decreases the operating levy, while Question 2 is for a bond levy to build a new school. Back to top

Why did the Task Force recommend building new versus renovating? 
The cost to update and expand the school is estimated at $32 million, which includes $18 million in immediate infrastructure and code compliance updates. However, even with this investment the school would still have many educational inadequacies due to remodeling and expansion limitations from load bearing walls and small site size. In addition, a renovation will not address all of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) accessibility requirements due to the significant number of elevation changes. It is estimated that this investment would extend the life of the building 20 years before another major investment would be needed. If the existing building was remodeled, there will continue to be major sections of the building that will be over 100 years old. These sections will require a higher level of investment to keep infrastructure maintained versus a new building. Older buildings simply require more investment. Back to top

How does the cost of the construction of the new building compare to other new schools?
This is a difficult question to answer because the answer depends on a number of factors: cost of property, the types of learning spaces (such as gyms, cafeterias, performing arts centers, etc.). 

According to our consultants, the costs of new construction in fall of 2020 in the area is anywhere between $320-$350/sqft – these numbers are higher in metropolitan areas. Red Rock Central is proposing a new building at 125,167 sqft which is $334.75 sqft.  If the district decides not to demolish the existing building this number goes to $327.04. So the new school would be in the middle to lower end of the new construction costs range. *Edited October 5 for clarification. Back to top

Were the community, staff and students involved?
Our planning process included online surveys and meetings with students, administrators and staff. Since the beginning of the process in May 2017, we have also had three engagement meetings (January 29, 2018; March 26, 2018 and February 5, 2020) and one scientific survey to gain stakeholder insight. That survey provided valuable information and resulted in a 30-plus member task force being formed by our district. Our Community Task Force met regularly from March 2019 to January 2020 reviewing data and stakeholder feedback to assist the district in determining a plan that best meets the needs of all students and residents. A second survey was sent to community members in April 2020. Learn more on WHAT IS THE PROCESSBack to top

Why did you close Jeffers if you need space?
Jeffers Elementary was closed in the 2015-2016 school year as there weren’t enough students to justify operating two facilities. This closure helped to increase financial reserves in the district as we were able to minimize operating costs. 

If Jeffers were open today, it would still be more space than what we need and is proposed in the new building option. The Jeffers building would have required additional maintenance to continue using it as an elementary school, very similar to the needs that the existing Lamberton facility is facing. Back to top

I don’t have kids; how does a new building affect me?
A strong school community is important to residents who work in our community and to those who own businesses. It is also important to families and teachers considering a move to our area. A strong school can mean a strong and vibrant area. A new school building would also mean additional space for Community Education classes. The school weight room is available to community members and would remain so in a new building. Back to top

How does this affect our Ag community? (Updated 10/9/20)

State law requires bond levies to apply to the entire farm property. We recognize this project will represent a significant investment on the part of our farm families, and we thank you. The state recognizes the impact and instituted the Ag2School tax credit - a 55% credit in 2021, 60% in 2022 and 70% in 2023 and beyond. The tax credit applies to current and future referendums for all property classified as Agricultural (excluding the house, garage and one acre).

If both questions are approved, agricultural homestead property valued at $6,000 per acre will pay $2.63 per acre next year. an estimated $2.34 per acre in 2022, and an estimated $1.75 per acre in 2023 and beyond. 

Non-homestead agricultural property would pay $5.25 per acre next year, an estimated $4.67 per acre in 2022, and an estimated $3.50 an acre in 2023 and beyond. 

Homesteadnon homestead









































Visit the Tax Calculator to calculate your tax impactBack to top


Why do we need to make a decision now?
The District believes this is a good time to consider a major facility project because:
The District is debt-free.
The tax decrease from the proposed operating levy will minimize the tax increase of any facility projects.
These projects would qualify for the Ag to School Property Tax Relief Bill. This bill, passed in May 2019, will reduce property taxes paid on agricultural land for school improvements by 55% in 2021, 60% in 2022, and 70% for taxes payable in 2023 and beyond. The state’s share of the tax burden of a 25-year bonded project benefiting our school community would exceed 50%. Back to top

Why not wait until the Ag2School credit covers 70%?

We want the tax impact to be as small as possible for all of our residents and our agricultural community, and we completely understand that our request represents a sacrifice on the part of farmers in particular. We are sinking a great deal of money into our facility each year, including significant costs on repairs and maintenance over the summer of 2020. We hoped we could put them off, but these items were failing and needed to be replaced or we couldn’t open for school. Our most cost effective approach is to build a new building as soon as possible to avoid continual big ticket repairs. Back to top

Should we get more bids?
The options proposed are estimates, not bids. By MN law, projects must go out for bids and will if an election is successful. If project bids come in over estimated costs, scope will be reduced to stay within budget. If project bids come in under estimated costs, the district can buy down the project debt. Back to top

Can I deduct the taxes paid on my State and Federal Income Taxes?
If you itemize deductions for federal income taxes, you may deduct all property taxes paid. Back to top


What happens if both questions are approved?
If both questions are approved, our operating levy would be renewed at a reduced rate of $700 per pupil from the current $1,117 per pupil. This adjustment would greatly reduce the tax impact of the new K-12 school that would be approved by Question 2. We would then begin to start the planning process for a new building that would include space for student collaboration and project based learning, be fully ADA compliant, have security and safety features, and address a number of other issues while having lower maintenance costs. 
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What happens if question 1 is approved and question 2 is not?
If question 1 is approved, our operating levy would be renewed at a reduced rate of $700 per pupil from the current $1,117 per pupil. We believe we can maintain current programming at this level due to savings from closing the Jeffers school and our increasing enrollment, which means more state funding. We would however still be in a facility with areas more than 100 years old whose needs are not going away. The process to address these building needs would have to continue with a future referendum being likely with higher construction costs. In addition, more of our operating fund would need to be dedicated to maintaining our building, taking funds away from student instruction. 
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What happens if question 1 is not approved and question 2 is?
Our current operating levy of $1,117 per pupil expires after this year. If Question 1 is not approved, we would be without any additional revenue per pupil from property taxes. This would be detrimental to our ability to continue to maintain our current programming and we may have to make cuts to staffing and programming in order to operate efficiently. Question 2 would still approve the construction of a new facility, however our ability to continue to operate with great opportunities and small class sizes would be negatively impacted. 
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What happens if both questions are not approved?
If both questions are not approved, our district will be in a tough position in both operations and facilities. We would be operating without a voter-approved operating levy which would be a large decrease in revenue making it difficult to maintain our current programming and cuts would need to be made. We would also still be in our same facility, unable to meet ADA codes and at a stark disadvantage as we would have high operational and maintenance costs. Another referendum in the future to increase revenue and address facility issues would be likely. 
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Why did the tax impact change?
The tax impact for an average valued home in the district of $75,000 if both questions are approved is $9 per year. In the spring, an estimated figure was $22 per year on the same home, but the cost of the overall project was reduced. In July, the estimated figure was $6 per year on the same home, but new enrollment figures were added into the calculation, pushing the figure to $9 per year. This is the final total as submitted to the Minnesota Department of Education in the official Review and Comment document. 
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How do our taxes compare to our neighbors?
We are on the lower end and would stay in the same position even if both referendum questions are approved. Some of our neighbors are considering operating or bond levies in 2021. 
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Tax comparison














How can we maintain current offerings with a lower operating levy?
Our enrollment is up, which means more state funding. There are also significant savings from closing the Jeffers school and operating as a single-campus. We are known for the great educational experience and lower class sizes that we provide, and we believe that a renewed operating levy at $700 per pupil will be enough to allow us to continue to offer current offerings and class sizes. 
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How does the tax impact vary for different types of property?
Agricultural property will pay taxes for the proposed operating referendum question based only on the value of the house, garage and one acre, while the bond referendum question on the value of the whole property. Seasonal recreational residential property (i.e., cabins) will pay no taxes for the proposed operating referendum question, but will pay taxes for the bond referendum question. To find your tax impact for any property type, visit the Tax Calculator 

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How do schools impact the community?
According to the National Bureau of Economic Research, there is a definite correlation between school expenditures and home values in any given neighborhood. A report titled, “Using Market Valuation to Assess Public School Spending,” found that for every dollar spent on public schools in a community, home values increased $20. These findings indicate that additional school expenditures may benefit everyone in the community, whether or not those residents actually have children in the local public school system. 
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Response to Brandon Mattison newspaper advertisement, September 2020
A recent newspaper article from community member Brandon Mattison raises a number of questions and contains some misinformation about the upcoming November 3 operating levy and bond referendum for Red Rock Central Schools. Click here for a detailed response. Back to top


We are a large school district. Why not choose a more central location? 
We are very proud to serve students in each of our four towns. We know we cover a large area, but we are dedicated to serving every student. During our lengthy community engagement process on facility planning last year, an argument for a centralized location for the proposed new school was presented. We listened and asked our consultant to provide an option based on this idea. It was more expensive (by about $6 million) and less efficient than rebuilding next to our current building for a number of reasons, including moving the ball fields, bus garages, infrastructure such as fiber optic internet, etc. In addition, the Minnesota Department of Education, which reviews and approves all new school construction, strongly advises against new schools not built near or in a town or city. Instead the Task Force recommended the option adopted by the school board for the November ballot. Back to top


What about the quality of materials to be used?
Our construction consultants worked with the school board to understand the needs of the community to determine the level of quality of materials. The cost estimate
includes quality materials and systems, but not “Cadillac” quality. The focus is to lower the overall life-cycle cost
of a building, paying attention both to upfront cost as well as long-term maintenance costs. Back to top

How can I learn more about the cost of construction and the current school building’s condition?
A great deal of study and evaluation of our current school campus was completed by our team of consultants.
The result of their analysis can be found on the district’s Facility Planning webpageBack to top


Is enrollment increasing or declining?
Enrollment is less than 10 years ago but over the past 5 years has grown. Red Rock Central’s enrollment in 2017-2018 was 398 students. Our current PreK-12 enrollment is 428. Open enrollment is an issue. 
The district had a net loss of 116 students last year as more students enrolled out of the district than enrolled in from neighboring districts. A new building is often seen as attractive to retaining resident students. Back to top

Did MDE get the review wrong, or did the school district?
From our point of view, the Minnesota Department of Education's "unfavorable" review of the proposed new school is wrong. Their review contains inaccuracies, misinterprets data, and doesn’t follow its own criteria. Consultants with extensive expertise conducted a three-year analysis to assess needs, including anticipated enrollment. MDE spent a month reviewing the documentation, never visited our current school building, and came to the conclusion that the current school should be renovated. Our own community-led task force came to a different conclusion. MDE rates projects positive, unfavorable, or negative. School district’s can proceed with a referendum with either a positive or unfavorable review, but the number of votes required to pass changes from 50% to 60% with an unfavorable review.  Back to top

What's wrong with our school?
Our current facility challenges are significant. The oldest part of our school building was built in 1915 – before World War I. The inefficient design due to multiple additions limits not only instruction, accessibility, and security,  but also our ability to attract and retain students and employees. Back to top

Do we need an operating levy?
Yes. The district’s financial advisor reviewed previous budgets, looked at enrollment forecasts, and helped determine an operating levy figure that will help us maintain current programming and class sizes. The school’s fund balance (savings account) is in good shape due to the operating levy and significant operational savings from closing the  Jeffers school. Without an operating levy, the district would soon need to make budget reductions by cutting programs and staff, which could result in higher class sizes. Back to top

How will farmland be impacted?
Agricultural property will pay taxes for the proposed operating referendum question based only on the value of the house, garage and one acre, but will pay on the value of the whole property on the bond referendum question. Homesteaded farmland will see a net tax increase, when the 70% Ag2Schools tax credit is applied in 2023, of approximately $1.75/acre annually on land valued at $6,000/acre. Depending on the time of year, that’s roughly equivalent to the value of a half bushel of corn. Rep. Rod Hamilton told us in February that the tax credit is  permanent law, as legislators are highly unlikely to vote for a tax increase on farmers. Back to top

Will the old building be demolished?
The school board has not made a final decision on what will happen to the old building. If an offer from a qualified buyer was made, the school board would consider that, along with input on appropriate use of the property from the Lamberton community. If no offer is received, cost for demolition is included in the referendum budget. Back to top


How does the cost of the new Red Rock Central school compare to other school construction projects?
Comparing the costs of building projects is difficult but here are a few points:
  • Some have questioned a recent project at Russel Tyler Ruthton at $35,485,000 (or $223/sf) which is very low compared to other projects being completed in rural areas.  This would likely be attributed to a combination of building materials, system types, site location, and other factors.  Without more information on the RTR project it is difficult to comment on specifics.
  • We are looking at building approximately 125,000 sq. feet. When compared to other projects that are similar or somewhat similar to ours, the estimates are in line with the ranges of these projects. The following table shows estimates for some other projects in the state. The estimates for GFW were prepared by the same firm that worked on RTR.  Both JCC and GFW include costs for demolishing existing structures as well.
 New Construction Comparison








 
  • The estimates for RTR are about 3 years old. When adjusted for inflation, the total cost would be approximately $43,400,000 based on 7% annual inflation. Inflation rates are typically between 5-10% annually.
  • The estimate for Red Rock Central does include costs for a new code that requires a storm shelter that is essentially hurricane proof. This was not required for RTR and is also not included in the estimates for JCC and GFW as these estimates were done prior to the code going into effect this year. The code requires significant structural infrastructure and mechanical and electrical systems serving the area to be able to run without power from the electrical grid for up to 90 minutes.  Back to top