School surveys due Monday

Public sentiment sought on potential building project, tax tolerance

by Tom Coombe
Time is running out to take part in a survey that could shape the size and scope of a proposed school facilities project.
A survey commissioned by the district is underway and area residents have until Monday, Oct. 14 to complete it.
Survey were mailed last month to homes across the district, and anyone who has misplaced theirs or did not receive one may contact the Ely district’s general office - at 365-6166 - to receive another.
The survey assembled by School Perceptions, a firm with a very strong track record in gaging community opinion on school referendums, also has safeguards to prevent participants from completing more than one.
The survey is part of an effort to gauge public opinion and sentiment before school board members settle on the size of a potential facilities project that almost certainly would require voter approval and property tax increases.
School officials have looked at options ranging from as little as $5.8 million to in excess of $17 million, but they’ve been reluctant to proceed until they get a better handle on public opinion.
School Perceptions has promised to determine the “tax tolerance” of area residents.
The survey include questions about various options that have come to the table in talks over the last year, starting with a base plan and proceeding forward with questions about additional options and costs.
It also includes information about the potential tax impact of a school building project.
ed in April, a $16.4 million bond, which assumes the district would get no outside assistance for improvements, would result in a tax increase of $9 per month on a $100,000 home.
The hit to commercial properties would be much larger, with a $16 million bond raising taxes on a $500,000 commercial property by $119 a month, while one valued at $1 million would get assessed an additional $248 per month.
Another unknown is the possibility of additional support, perhaps from the Iron Range Resources and Rehabilitation Board.
The board as well as a citizens committee that met earlier this year has reviewed proposals to connect the district’s buildings, build additional gymnasium space, complete an array of infrastructure work to district buildings and enhance facilities with a new cafeteria, commons area and various classroom improvements.
The facilities group looked at a $5.8 million “base plan” which does not include a gymnasium and calls for a “linkways addition” that would connect the buildings via walkways.
A new gymnasium and commons area were recommended by school staff, but some members on the committee that met this year pushed for other priorities, including infrastructure repairs that include a new roof, new windows and doors.
Board members will meet with School Perceptions in late-October to go over the results.