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Timing may not be right for school upgrades

By Staff | Oct 23, 2009

What a great opportunity, but what unfortunate timing.

That’s one way to perceive the Rugby School District’s proposed $5.85 million renovation project.

It’s a great opportunity to make much-needed upgrades at the Jr.-Sr. High and Ely Elementary that could be financed with zero-interest Qualified School Construction Bonds through the federal government.

However, it’s bad timing since the city of Rugby just special assessed property owners for 15 years for a street improvement project, costing just under $5 million. And this month the city’s sales tax jumped from one to two percent to generate more funds to pay off the street improvements.

So, the question is will property owners support an increase in the county tax levy to pay for school improvements on heels of a major city infrastructure project?; maybe a better question is can they afford it?

The Rugby School Board may get an answer very soon. An advisory committee will be formed to learn about the proposed school improvements that include new lighting and windows as well as replacing the heating and cooling systems in several classrooms in the two schools, and learn about the financing options in front of the board. That committee will also likely give their input on whether the district should proceed, or hold off, or piecemeal the project that would require additional mills to the tax levy.

The district hired a Minot architect firm to complete a facility’s assessment, and among its recommendations, were removing asbestos and installing new windows and replacing the heating and cooling systems with more energy-efficient units.

The improvements are warranted, but is the timing right given the additional tax burden on many local property owners?

School officials are wise to move ahead carefully and consult with local residents before taking the next step.

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