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Board to vote on school projects

Carlton School Board members are poised to approve approximately $5.55 million worth of health and safety improvements to school district facilities, money that would come from bond sales not approved by voters.

On Monday, Dec. 18, the board will hold a public hearing on $630,591 in abatement bonds that would be used to pay for parking lot and sidewalk improvements at Carlton High School and South Terrace Elementary School. The hearing will be during its 7 p.m. meeting at CHS.

They aren't required to hold a hearing on planned health and safety improvements at South Terrace, which will cost just over $4.92 million and replace a 55-year-old boiler, add a fire suppression system and also address air quality issues.

The planned projects and bonding come after Carlton voters overwhelmingly rejected a $22 million to $27 million two-question bonding referendum in August for a new and remodeled preK-12 school at the South Terrace site.

Since then, board members have been exploring how to correct the most pressing facility issues. The state allows school districts to bond for money to address health and safety issues and abatement without going to the voters.

If approved, the bond sales would result in an increase of $122 per year in school district property taxes for a home valued at $150,000.

Superintendent Gwen Carman said the district is also going to spend $195,730 from its long-term facility maintenance fund for improvements that don't qualify under the health and safety or abatement categories, which won't affect taxes because it's money the district already has in its fund.

Board members voted 5-1 (Jennifer Chmielewski dissenting) at their November meeting to approve an agreement for professional services from InGensa Inc., which specializes in master planning or facility project planning and execution for school districts, to oversee the projects.

Responding to a suggestion that InGensa's fees were greater than other construction management agreements, Carman said the InGensa model is unique, but under the terms of the agreement, InGensa pays all architectural, engineering and project management fees.

She admitted the decision to focus on needs at the elementary school first was deliberate.

"There's a lot of community support for maintaining a healthy South Terrace," she said. "The high school needs are more complex, and more expensive, so we want to continue to discuss that and get community opinions.

The Carlton School Board will also hold a public hearing and vote on the proposed tax levy payable in 2018 at 6:30 p.m. Monday, separate from the regular school board meeting at 7 p.m. The levy is expected to increase by 2.36 percent, from $1.21 million in 2017 to $1.24 million.

Board receives consolidation resolution

In other news, the board received an official copy of the Wrenshall resolution from January that stated the Wrenshall board is in support of a two-site consolidation option with the high school in Wrenshall and the elementary students at South Terrace. Board members held extensive discussions regarding how to respond to the Wrenshall resolution and whether to reopen the consolidation debate at its Nov. 20 meeting and again at the committee of the whole meeting Monday night.

"As far as the possibility of pursuing consolidation discussions, that's still on hold," Carman told the Pine Journal on Tuesday, Dec. 12. "It won't be discussed Monday, but it will likely be revisited at the January Committee of the Whole meeting."

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Public meetings Monday, Dec. 18

The Carlton School Board will hold its truth in taxation public hearing Monday, Dec. 18, at 6:30 p.m. in the Carlton High School media center, followed by the regular meeting at 7 p.m.

There also will be a public hearing on the school district's proposed abatement bonds during that meeting.

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