Input sought for use of Brown and Hill proceeds

Pipestone Area Schools (PAS) plans to seek input on how to use the $436,000 in proceeds from the sale of the Brown and Hill school properties.

Minnesota statute requires proceeds from the sale of school district properties to be used to pay off any outstanding debt on the properties that were sold. If there is no debt, which there wasn’t for Brown and Hill, the funds can be used for capital expenditures for the betterment of district-owned buildings or to pay off other outstanding debt.

Superintendent Kevin Enerson asked school board members what they wanted to do with the funds during the board’s April 25 meeting.

School Board Chair Jeff Baatz said he’d spoken to board member Lance Oye, who was not at the meeting, and that he supported using the funds for a roofing project on the middle and high school. Baatz said he’d support that use as well.

Enerson said the roof is expected to need replacement in about eight to 10 years and cost about $3 million based on an estimate from several years ago. He said the rubber membrane roofs are expected to last 20 or 30 years and the existing roof is about 20 years old.

“I think the roof project is a good idea, but we have other tools that we can use for that,” said school board member Randy Erdman.

Enerson said the school board could also consider improvements that were discussed leading up to the bond referendum for the new elementary school and safety improvements at the middle and high school, but were not ultimately included in the project. Those included a greenhouse, which was estimated to cost around $300,000, and a career technical education classroom, which was estimated to cost around $1 million. The district has also considered improvements to the loading dock area, which were estimated to cost around $120,000.

School Board member Katie Wiese asked if there were any suggestions from staff.

Enerson said Activities Director Rick Zollner was interested in making some improvements at Paulsen Field involving the concession stand, added storage space, press boxes and more.

Erdman asked if there were any projects that would have direct impacts on students. Wiese and school board member Amy Nelson said they supported that idea.

“I feel like that’s what initially it was given for,” Wiese said.

PAS Director of Teaching and Learning Melany Wellnitz said the middle and high school auditorium was in need of lighting updates, which would benefit students and the community. Those improvements were estimated to cost around $300,000. Enerson said district administration was considering a two-phase project for that work, potentially beginning next year.

Baatz said that because the funds came from the sale of the elementary schools, he thought it would make sense to use them for a capital project that would have more of an impact on elementary students than middle and high school students.

School board member Brad Carson asked if the funds could be used to pay off the debt for the tennis courts, which could enable the school district to use lease levy dollars for other projects. Enerson said there was about $370,000 left to pay off the tennis courts. He said later after looking into that option that it was not advisable due to the low interest rate on the debt, the loan agreement terms and the nature of the lease levy option.

School board members suggested asking staff members and community members how they would like to see the funds used. Nelson suggested gathering ideas and getting cost estimates for the top five suggestions. Enerson said the district could do some surveying to gather more information for the board to consider.

For now, he said, the funds have been moved to the school district’s capital fund.