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Lake Park-Audubon puts operating levy before buildings

The possibility that Lake Park-Audubon Schools will be able to tap into federal stimulus money for approximately $20 million in school facility improvements is looking less and less likely -- at least for the coming year.

Superintendent Dale Hogie said Wednesday that he has not yet received official word from the Minnesota Department of Education (MDE) as to whether the district's application has been approved for federal Qualified School Construction Bonds (QSCB) of $16 million and Qualified Zone Academy Bonds (QZAB) of $3 million.

In informal discussions with an MDE official, however, Hogie said he had been informed the district wasn't among those identified to receive the money in the first phase of funding. He was also informed that since LP-A did submit its application before June 30 of this year, it would be one of the schools to receive "priority" for the next phase of funding. About $75 million in bonding authority will be authorized in each of the two phases, Hogie added.

"If LP-A is not funded (in this round) they have another phase that starts in January -- anyone that applied before June 30 will receive preference in consideration," Hogie said.

If and when LP-A's application is approved, Hogie said, it would authorize the district to issue about $3 million in non-interest-bearing QZAB bonds for repairs and renovations at the elementary building in Audubon, and another $16 million in QSCB bonds for new high school construction at Lake Park.

An additional $1 million in needed improvements would not be eligible for the federal bonds, Hogie added. For that portion of the project, the district would need to issue standard constriction bonds.

Because the status of their application is not yet known, Hogie said, it is unlikely that the district will be seeking another bonding referendum this fall.

Instead, the board is shifting its priorities toward the district's operating levy, which is set to expire in fiscal year 2011.

"We are in the fifth year of six on the current levy, which was passed (by voters) in 2004," Hogie explained.

The current operating levy stands at $500 per pupil.

"We're contemplating an increase," said Hogie, though the exact amount of that increase has not yet been determined.

The school board will meet Monday to discuss its options, he added.

Vicki Gerdes

Staff writer at Detroit Lakes Newspapers for the past 16 years, currently editor of the entertainment and community pages as well as covering city council and the Lake Park-Audubon School Board. Living in DL with my cat, Smokey.

(218) 844-1454