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School district, ag association sign bus garage lease agreement

The Park Rapids Area School District will continue to lease the school bus garage from the ag association. School board members appreciate the lease, which will help with budgeting in the next few years. (Anna Erickson / Enterprise)

The Park Rapids School Board entered into a three-year bus garage lease with Shell Prairie Agriculture Association at a significantly lower cost than an initial proposal.

About a month ago, the agriculture association proposed a one-year lease that was significantly higher than the year before. The lease agreement was $10,230 last year, or $852.50 per month. The proposal from a month ago was $19,488, or $1,624 per month, from July 1, 2009 to June 30, 2010.

After the two boards met, a new three-year lease was proposed. The first year, the school district would pay $950 per month ($11,400 for the year), the second year would be a 10 percent increase over the first year and the third year would be a 10 percent increase over the second year.

"It's a significant decrease, that's a lot of action on their part, which I greatly appreciate," said board chairwoman Sherry Safratowich.

If either party wants out of the lease, 90 days notice is required, she said. The lease also has an environmental clause.

Board member Karol Savage made a motion to enter into the lease while at the same time continuing to explore options such as building a bus garage on school district property.

"This is huge for us to have a three-year contract so we can budget for that if we need to instead of not having any idea what we're going to do from year to year," Safratowich said.

The school district needs to look at long range, said board member Gary Gauldin.

"We may be where we are now for the next 10 years but we would be remiss if we didn't explore options, i.e. owning our own facility.

But based on the budget for the next few years, "how many teachers do you want to cut to have a bus garage?" Gauldin asked.

Superintendent Glenn Chiodo also said it was a big move by the fair board.

"The county hasn't got it any better or worse than we do," Chiodo said. "... Credit goes to the fair board for the willingness to make the adjustment that they made to get us into a position where we can count on a number, we know what to look for in the future, and obviously we have the flexibility to continue to pursue our own (garage)."