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School board passes resolution to construct new high school

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There were only nine people who attended the meeting at the multi purpose room on Monday night to witness the local school board make the move to build a new high school.
After discussion among the board members and questions from the visitors, Matt Cronin made the motion for the board to pass a resolution not to exceed $6.9 million on a 30 year bond to build a new high school at Gettysburg. Kevin Geditz added a second to the motion, which passed with only one dissenting vote from Paul Kellogg.
Plans for options have been presented to the board by HKG Architects of Aberdeen. Two more options were viewed at the meeting.
The most significant difference between the two plans was the addition of a competition gymnasium, which would be built in addition to the existing gym. The current gym, which was built in the mid 1970s, does not meet SD High School Activity Association requirements and would not be available for district or regional competitions.
Information has been published in the News along with requests from the school and board members for people in the district to contact them with questions or concerns regarding the project.
Board president Kay Schmidt opened the discussion by saying the majority of the people who contacted her regarding the construction were in favor of doing the entire project.
School superintendent Tim Hagedorn told the board that he had several people come to his office to review the plans and ask questions, and all had a favorable view of the construction. He added that the majority felt that it was a good time to do the entire project, which includes the new gymnasium.
Kellogg said he had people who shared opinions both ways, “but that’s the farmer crowd,” he said. “The need was for a school when we started this project, but it started at a four million dollar project and went to a seven million dollar project.”
Ryan Lake said he saw both sides, too, but the timing with the low interest rates made it more feasible. “If you’re going to do it, is now the time to do it because of the way things cost? We can borrow money pretty cheap, and I would highly doubt it will ever get lower than two and a half percent,” he said. He added that he didn’t think the cost of materials and supplies go down in price if the project is done at a later time. “But then,” he said, “we’ve got to do what our constituents tell us, too.”
Brian Robbennolt, who was recently appointed to the board, said that he has talked to a number of people and the consensus was the same. “Pretty much all of them are saying the same thing,” he said. “Do it all, do it right, and do it now.” He said that he thinks there is a need for the gym and  it will be used, and now there is a lower interest rate risk, while putting it off would increase inflationary risks.
Kimberly Schweiss said she had a comment from an alumn who couldn’t believe the existing high school building is still standing. She added that based on comments she had received, she was of the opinion that they need to build it all at this time.
There was no resistance to the project from the people Cronin had talked to, and he said he felt the board needed to make the decision to do the gym with the project now, or not at all. “I am personally of the opinion, like most everyone else here is, that logically we are not going to do a bond issue on top of a bond issue down the road, and it will cost a lot more with interest along with everything else.”
Geditz said that he talked to several people and the response was the same. “They would like to see the gym and the school; do the whole project. And that is my feeling. Do it just once.”
Schmidt said that property tax values were provided by the county assessor and that the top fourth of the assessed tax values in the county, at the top rate of $2.95 per $1,000, it would raise those top levels around $7200 per year. The bottom 25 percent would raise taxes around $46 annually.
Additional tweaks to the plan were discussed, which could potentially save more of the project costs.
It was also discussed whether to go for the 20 years at 2.5 percent interest, or 30 years at 3 percent. It was agreed that the latter would provide more fiscal “wiggle room” for the school district, and the last payments would be quite low at that rate.
Bob Willey, who was among the visitors at the meeting, said he had visited with land owners in the county who don’t pay any taxes to the Gettysburg School District but instead are taxed for the Hoven district, despite being located closer to Gettysburg. He felt that Hoven needed to be included in the discussion. “My opinion is to do this, but I would like to see one school system.” He went on to say that he didn’t see where there would be any opposition from Hoven to combine the school districts into one. “I don’t think you would even have to have a vote.”
The school districts are determined legislatively, and it was explained that the local school boards have no control over that.
It was made clear that the bids could come in below the amounts discussed. HKG Architects have worked on several schools, and the last three schools on which they have worked came in under budget.
Any grants or donations to the school would also be deducted from the bond issue. The applications for grants could not be completed until the bond issue passes. The public vote will take place April 9 with the school board election.
It was also made clear that, with a bond resolution and more specific information available to the architects, additional changes could be made to reduce the cost of the project.
Next steps are to continue to work with the architectural engineers, organize more public meetings, and show more specific plans in order to educate the voters in the Gettysburg School district about the importance and need for the new school.
In other items:
• the board accepted, with regrets, the resignation of Bethany Blegen for the end of the school year.
• a date was scheduled for teacher negotiations.
• the calendar for the next school year will be presented for approval at the next meeting.
• new sports alignments for the upcoming year were reported with some changes in districts and regions.
Watch the News for more information on the school project.
By Molly McRoberts

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