By Chad Koenen
An expansive remodeling project at Henning School is one step closer to heading to the ballot box.
During a special school board meeting on Wednsday, June 29, the Henning School Board met with representatives from Ehler’s Public Finance Advisors and ICS about several potential projects to enhance Henning School. Ultimately, whatever project comes to fruition, if any, will be up to the district voters in November.
During its special meeting, the school board discussed a wide variety of school project options. The project most favored by the school district would redo the HVAC system, the floors and create more open space, new finishes in the rooms, replacing windows for more lighting, new furniture in the elementary rooms and redoing the high school gym floors. The project would ultimately move the main entrance to the south side of the building with a new parking lot, while moving the playground to the tennis courts/Hollow area across the street. The project would also include moving the administration part of the building to the south side of the building and potentially relocating the industrial arts area.
Though the preliminary figures were not finalized, the estimated cost of the project would be $21 million.
The school board also expressed an interest in a potential second levy question that would construct a new gym near the new entrance to the south of the building to give it additional gym space. The cost for that project is estimated at $7 million, but could be included as a second levy option. Several school board members expressed an interest in having a separate question for the gym to give voters an additional option for the building project.
In addition to the building project, the school board also heard an update about how the project could be funded. Representatives from Ehler’s told the school board about different financing options like abatement and operating referendums. The latter would be the method needed in order to approve the expansive school building remodeling project.
The overall tax impact to residential and commercial business owners was not finalized during the special meeting.
While property taxes could increase if a referendum is approved by taxpayers, school board members also learned that Henning has among the lowest school property taxes in the region since it does not have any existing debt. A property that is valued at $175,000 pays about $465 per year in school property taxes with Battle Lake being the only school district that pays less, also due to not having any existing debt.
By comparison, Perham-Dent School District taxpayers pay about $499 per year, Parkers Prairie pays $619 per year, Wadena-Deer Creek pays $687 and New York Mills pays $852 per year.
While the school board has discussed the potential for a building referendum in November, it has not formally moved forward with seeking voters approval. The school board would need to do that within the next month or so in order to meet state guidelines.
In order to get additional community input, the school board will be hosting a community meeting on Wednesday, July 13 from 5-7 p.m. at the school. The meeting is open to the public.