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School board takes first steps on facilities projects

MORRIS, Minn. - The Morris Area School Board took the first steps down a long-range facilities improvement plan at their meeting Tuesday night, authorizing Superintendent Scott Monson to move forward seeking proposals for two potential construction projects.

The more pressing of the two projects is to address a section of the roof on the high school that was first added in 1991. The roof was only designed to last 13 to 15 years, which means it is well past the recommended replacement timeline, said Monson.

"We keep pushing the 1991 roofing areas forward, and we have done that for a number of years," said Monson. "We're at a point now where we really need to do something. We have a construction market that I think is favorable to perhaps going out and having something done this summer."

The board authorized Monson to work with ICS Consulting to investigate the major players in the roofing industry to see what path the board might want to go down moving forward. This could lead to the board requesting public bids to move forward with a summer roofing project.

The second project, which Monson characterized as an "opportunity," is to recommission electrical and mechanical equipment in both school buildings. Recommissioning equipment is a process that ensures all equipment is functioning as designed, which can increase efficiency, reduce energy costs and extend the life of the equipment.

The board authorized Monson to request proposals to find out how much the projects would cost and gather more information as needed. Monson said authorizing Requests for Proposals (RFPs) did no obligate the district to move forward with the project.

Monson estimated that recommissioning the buildings would cost about $100,000 total, but that there would be a payback in energy savings over a three to five year period.

Earlier this month, members of the Facilities Committee met with Pat Overom from ICS to begin developing a long-range facilities planning program. The plan is a tool that the district will use to track possible facilities projects, including the costs and what fiscal years they could be implemented in.

The initial plan - which is still a work in progress - includes more than $6.5 million in possible facilities projects over the next decade, everything from replacing doors and carpet to painting lockers and re-doing parking lots. After reviewing the plan with Overom, the Facilities Committee thought that these two projects would be good next steps for the district.

Board member Brent Fuhrman said the meeting with ICS was "quite informative," and that the plan will help the district prioritize as more projects arise.

Preliminary 2012-2013 budget looks positive

A preliminary budget for the 2012-2013 school year shows a preliminary surplus of almost $25,000, which includes a two percent increase in revenue and an almost three percent increase in expenses over 2011-2012.

"This is still very preliminary," Monson cautioned. "There's still a lot of work to be done between now and June and a lot of things can happen between now and June when you will be asked to formally approve a budget."

The revenue increase is "largely" do to a projected increase in student enrollment and an increase in educational funding per pupil from the state.

The budget presentation was strictly informational, Monson said, and added that members of the district Finance Committee would be looking at the numbers in the coming months.

Despite the good news, the board also passed a resolution that authorizes Monson and other district administrators to make recommendations for reductions in programs and positions.

"Each year I ask you to approve this resolution more from a precautionary measure - even in years when we project a budget surplus," said Monson. "There's so much that can change between now and June."

However, passing the resolution is a first step on the "check list" of cutting programs, and not having it in place could jeopardize the district's ability to make cuts if they are needed, said Monson.