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Trust fund established for school upgrades PDF Print E-mail
Written by Steve Ostermann   
Wednesday, 06 July 2016 18:18

Board sets up 10-year improvement plan that will earmark money for projects

Grafton School District officials have taken steps to reserve money for long-term maintenance projects.

The board last week established a 10-year capital improvement trust fund to cover the cost of upgrading buildings and grounds.

The board also adopted a 10-year plan that outlines proposed projects.

Both decisions were recommended by Director of Business Services Kristin Sobocinski, who said the move would give the district a cost-effective tool in planning and financing upgrades.

General fund “surpluses from year to year could be transferred to Fund 46 without impacting the district’s state aid and tax levy,” Sobocinski told the board.

Under a new state law, school districts are allowed to establish a Fund 46 for capital improvements and then transfer any surpluses from the general fund to the newly created fund.

However, the law also has restrictions, including prohibiting districts from removing Fund 46 money for five years after the fund is created.

In addition, the money can only be used for projects identified in the improvement plan. Districts are not required to transfer a minimum amount of money each year to Fund 46.

Sobocinski recommended the board establish the trust fund and plan for capital improvements at its June 27 meeting in order to meet a June 30 deadline. The board has until July 31 each year to decide how much money will go into the fund and can update the plan as often as it wants, she said.

“Over time, the goal would be to build the Fund 46 balance to an amount that would cover ongoing and projected buildings and grounds maintenance expenses such as parking lots, roof replacement, etc.,” Sobocinski said.

The board’s June 27 decisions were made 12 weeks after voters rejected a $49.5 million referendum to upgrade district facilities in the spring election. Besides objecting to the potential tax impact of the spending proposals, opponents criticized district officials for failing to have a maintenance plan.

Among the proposed projects for the 2016-17 school year in the Fund 46 improvement plan are a wide range of upgrades at Grafton High School, John Long Middle School and all three elementary schools.

Jaime Scofield, the district’s director of buildings and grounds, developed the improvement plan using input from facilities studies done by Plunkett Raysich Architects and the Sigma Group and updated cost estimates from contractors.

The board continues to prioritize upgrade projects in preparation for the 2016-17 budget, which will be adopted this fall. Board Treasurer Paul Lorge said having a long-term capital improvement plan and trust fund in place will help in that process.

“It can literally only be used for maintenance needs, not any expansion,” Lorge said. “It needs to be current and reflective of how we want to spend that money in the future.”

Lorge said Grafton will be among the first Wisconsin school districts to take advantage of the Trust 46 law.

“It’s a relatively new thing. Only about 25 school districts in the state have this,” he said.

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