In October 2014, the Board of Education directed administration to develop a comprehensive facilities plan. The final plan known as Blueprint 181, which was completed using an extensive, three-year, collaborative process, is the direct result of what the school district heard from our community about what they value about our schools.
The size and scope of the proposed plan for our schools may be intimidating. However, this proposal reflects how comprehensive the plan is as it will enable the school district to make significant investments in all our facilities. In turn, we will transform education for our students while revitalizing our schools, neighborhoods, and communities. We also must put the size of the proposed plan in perspective by understanding that as one of the largest school districts in greater Minnesota, Brainerd Public Schools spans more than 500 square miles and educates nearly 7,000 students across 12 buildings.
A school district's property tax base is representative of the size of the schools it supports. With a property tax base of approximately $5.2 billion, the Brainerd School District can fund larger amounts while impacting property owners with tax increases comparable to those in much smaller school districts in our area and across the state. Our planning process included a concerted effort to leverage the effect of this large tax base by maximizing existing funding to minimize any potential property tax increase.
With a cost of the comprehensive facilities plan at $205 million, we knew it was important to explain the different funding sources by separating those sources into three different categories.
• We will dedicate about one-third of the annual funding intended for upkeep of school buildings to make payments on bonds that will fund nearly $30 million of the total project. We will ensure these funds are used for their intended purpose within the project, while also leaving us nearly $2 million for annual maintenance on our schools. These funds are already included in the taxes that fund our schools each year so property owners will experience no increase in their taxes for this portion.
• Accounting for roughly another $30 million, the second category of funds are issuing bonds under specific programs that can be approved by our school board. The payments on these bonds will be added to our local property taxes which will result in an increase in the amount of taxes paid by property owners.
• Maximizing these two funding categories allowed us to lessen the amount of voter-approved bonds to approximately $145 million. That amount is divided over the three questions that will appear on the ballot. Question 1 regarding our elementary and early childhood facilities is approximately $68 million of the $145 million. Question 2 addressing our secondary schools and alternative education facilities is approximately $69 million. Question 3 proposes a Performing Arts Center at Brainerd High School and is approximately $8 million. This is what will be before voters on the April 10, 2018, special election.
If the referendum is approved by voters, the $7 per month increase in school taxes on a median-value home in our school district represents the increase from both the second and third categories of funding described above. Yes, the plan is comprehensive. And yes the funding is comprehensive as well. But the overall goal is to tap as many available sources to maximize the investment in our schools and thus the impact to our students and our broader community. For more details, visit blueprint181.org.
Polls are now open for early and absentee voting. Early votes may be cast at the Crow Wing County Elections Office on the 2nd floor west wing of the Historic Courthouse, 326 Laurel Street, Brainerd. Hours are Monday-Friday, 8 a.m.-5 p.m. (except legal holidays) and Saturday, April 7, 10 a.m.-3 p.m.. Absentee ballots will be mailed upon request and must be returned by April 10. Phone: 218-824-1051 Web: http://www.crowwing.us/1462/ISD-181-Brainerd-Public-Schools-Special