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PDF copy of the MDE Review and Comment

August 24, 2021

Description of Proposed School Construction Project
Red Rock Central Public School District, ISD #2884-01, is proposing a single question referendum on November 2, 2021 that would authorize $41 million in bonding authority to finance a new K-12 facility on the existing school site. Proposed projects would be scheduled for completion in calendar year 2022. Cost estimates by project component are as follows:
New PK-12 School $30,680,000
Site Improvements $1,850,000
Fees, Permits & Testing $6,506,000
Contingencies $1,630,000
Bond Issuance $384,769

The district put a two-question referendum before the voters in November 2020. With that referendum, the first ballot question was successful and reduced the operating referendum from $1,117.08 to $700 per pupil. The second ballot question, which would have authorized $42.1 million in bonding authority to finance a new, 125,000 square foot school facility, received slightly over 52% of the vote. However, due to an unfavorable review of that project proposal by MDE, a 60% approval rating was required for passage and the measure failed.

Subsequent to the November 2020 referendum, MDE officials met with Red Rock Central’s administration and school board members to discuss project-related concerns. MDE staff also toured the existing facility. Much of the conversation with the district focused on the “right-sizing” of a new school building to accommodate existing and projected student enrollment. Some of the options discussed were fewer classrooms and a smaller, two-station gymnasium.

The district then proposed a three-question referendum on February 9, 2021. Though the February 2021 referendum proposal had three facility-related questions, the proposed projects didn’t materially change from the November 2020 referendum and the proposal again received an unfavorable review by MDE. The first ballot question would have authorized $41.25 million in bonding authority to finance a new school facility on the existing athletic fields. The second ballot question would have authorized $2.88 million in bonding authority to finance additional building space, specifically a 3rd gymnasium station and a wrestling room. The third ballot question would have authorized $1.015 million in bonding authority to finance the demolition and decommissioning of the existing school facility.

The current proposal calls for a new, 118,000 square foot, PK-12 facility to be built on the existing PK-12 school site adjacent to the athletic fields, instead of on top of them as in prior proposals. The proposed school is right-sized for current enrollment but is also designed to accommodate additional building space if needed. The current proposal reduces square footage through the flexible and cooperative use of space as much as possible. The footprint of the proposed facility is significantly smaller than the prior proposal and is about $3 million less in cost when construction cost escalations are factored in.

Due to the efficiencies associated with a new facility, the district expects a reduction in costs to operate the proposed facility. The proposed project appears to be in the long-term interest of the school district.

If the bond referendum is successful and bonds are sold, the debt service on the bonds will be eligible for debt service equalization under Minnesota Statutes, section 123B.53, subdivision 3, if the bond schedule is approved. The amount of debt service equalization aid, if any, the district receives is determined annually and is dependent upon property wealth, student population, and other statutory requirements.

Review and Comment Statement
Based on the department’s analysis of the school district’s required documentation and other pertinent information from sources of the Minnesota Department of Education, the Commissioner of Education provides a positive review and comment.
Additional Information is Available
Persons desiring additional information regarding this proposal should contact the school district superintendent’s office.

Heather Mueller, Ed.D.
Commissioner (Minnesota Department of Education)
August 24, 2021