Frequently Asked Questions
How much did the remodel cost for the current administration building? What was the estimated cost of remodeling the old BH Corp building for the new administration building? Now, what is the actual cost going to be? Where did these funds come from?
RCAS’ portion of the remodel costs at the City, School Administration Building would have been $7.5 million. The cost to renovate the new administration building (The Rapid City Education Center) was $4.2 million. The District saved $3.3 million by moving to the new building. The cost of the Rapid City Education Center building was paid for with money the District received from the City for the District’s portion of City, School Administration Building. The renovation dollars came from our Capital Outlay fund.
Where will the alternative high school program that is currently housed at Rapid City High School be relocated?
The Six-year Plan includes re-purposing the current Rapid City High School (RCHS) building as a future elementary school.
At present, the alternative high school program at RCHS only partially utilizes the building. The board of education and the superintendent have recently identified capacity issues within the district, with the greatest need in the elementary grades.
With the newly established educational initiatives taking root at RCHS the alternative high school has enjoyed huge success, and we attribute that feat to those running the program and not the building it occupies, or its location. We are excited about the new programming RCHS has put into place, and know we’ll learn a lot about their space needs as their new program becomes fully implemented. Our goal is to find space for RCHS that not only meets the needs of their new programming but enhances it. We are exploring a number of options but want to give the new program time to be fully implemented in order to better understand its facility needs. Suffice it to say that neither the school board nor the administration are planning to eliminate or marginalize the RCHS program in any way.
How is the bond structured?
The bond structure is complex. It is not a straight amortization. The bond payment will grow over time. As the bond payment grows, so will the community. More people plus an increase in valuation will ensure the District can meet the debt service obligation as it increases over time. Total principal and interest payments begin around $8 million and incrementally increase to around $18 million by the end of the debt service period.
This bond structure assumes that the community will see a 4 percent increase in valuation each year. This is a conservative valuation increase as growth in our community has exceeded 5 percent in recent years. If the valuation is less than four percent, and the revenue from the levy at .85 will not meet the debt service in a given year, then the district will make up the difference using capital outlay dollars.
This bond structure is a common practice and is used by districts throughout the country. It allows the district to be able to meet its most pressing facility needs while minimizing the impact on its taxpayers. The District worked with Mr. Toby Morris, of Dougherty & Company, LLC, in analyzing and structuring the bond. Mr. Morris has extensive bond advisory experience and has worked with many schools and municipalities across the state over the past 20 years. Also, the District has received legal counsel on the bond matter from Mr. Todd Meierhenry, of Meierhenry Sargent LLP of Sioux Falls. Mr. Meierhenry specializes in the area of public finance and has worked extensively with bond issues. After working with these gentlemen, the District feels confident in the structure of the bond.
Can the school board arbitrarily increase my taxes?
In the unlikely event that valuation depreciates, the Board could increase the mil rate in order to meet its debt obligation. This is not a likely scenario. Even in a worst-case scenario where the levee did have to increase, it could never be arbitrary. The district could only ever collect up to the total amount of debt service in a given year. So, the board could never increase the levy because they felt like it.
Can I vote if I don’t live within Rapid City limits?
Yes. Anyone who lives within the district’s attendance boundary can vote? Not sure if you live within the attendance boundary? Enter your address here to find out. https://versatransweb05.tylertech.com/RapidCity/elinkrp/Students/BasicTransBoundarySearch.aspx
Why did RCAS wait so long to address these deteriorating building conditions?
The buildings that are on the closure list are in excess of 60-years-old. Canyon Lake Elementary was built in 1948, Robbinsdale was built in 1953, Horace Mann was built in 1952, Wilson was built in 1929, and South Middle School was built in 1959. Many of these buildings were built on land that was donated at the time to save costs. Many of the issues that the District is dealing with are related to locations of the buildings. Robbinsdale and South were built on expansive soil and there is a high-water table at Canyon Lake and Horace Mann.
Structural engineers monitor the movement that is happening at Robbinsdale Elementary on a biweekly basis. Our maintenance team spends a lot of time in that building doing reactive maintenance –mostly due to the shifting that is happening there. The same is true at South Middle School. Last year, a portion of the structure underneath Canyon Lake had to be rebuilt because the steel beams had rusted from the water that continues to be an issue at that site. Wilson has a number of maintenance needs that would be very costly to repair. There is also a high-water table at Horace Mann that has created maintenance issues.
The District’s maintenance team is doing the best with what they have, but simple maintenance projects can be costly and take a lot of time. For example, changing a light fixture at South Middle costs significantly more than changing a fixture in one of our new buildings. Why? There is asbestos in that building. Further, since some of the boiler systems and other infrastructure is aging, the District often must have custom parts made to fix issues. It’s also not easy or cheap to find people to fix some of these systems because many today do not know how to work on HVAC and boiler systems that are this old.
The short answer is that these buildings have not been neglected. Through the years, the district has been able to build buildings (five new schools) and do multiple renovation projects without asking for a property tax increase. With the available dollars RCAS has performed various preventive maintenance projects like NMS structure stabilization and preservation, Roof Maintenance District wide, Meadowbrook structure stabilization and preservation, Rapid Valley structure stabilization, Rapid City High School structure stabilization, New HVAC system at Knollwood, Energy upgrades throughout the entire district, and the list goes on.
Unfortunately, the District’s needs are mounting, and it is getting harder and harder to continue to fix these facilities. The spaces are too small, present many issues for our students with mobility issues and the list goes on.
Do building improvements lead to better educational outcomes?
There is research that shows school facility investments lead to modest gradual improvements in test scores, large immediate improvements in student attendance, and significant improvements in student’s effort.
What happens if the bond does not pass?
The District will have to make adjustments, many of which won’t be ideal, but nonetheless are necessary. Here are just a few things the District would need to do to accommodate shifting growth, current capacity issues and future growth.
-We would continue to force transfer students, especially those who live in growing communities in the Southwest and East parts of the City
-We would do immediate boundary shifts and adjustments to alleviate the crowding in those high growth areas of town
-We have already had to increase our elementary and middle school classes at some schools and that will likely continue. We could have as many as 30 students at K-2, 32 at 3-5 and 35 students in class in grades 6-8
-We would also consider adding annexes
One issue that we must plan for is the possibility that we will have to close one or more of our aging buildings due to the condition. That would mean that we would have to look at alternative sites to place kids, or potential schedule changes.
How long will it take to complete all of the projects listed in the bond proposal?
All of the projects will be complete within six years.
Why not build a third high school?
Our high schools are not over capacity. Our immediate need is at the elementary level where our numbers are up significantly. Those capacity concerns are starting to carry over to the middle school level. Currently, RCAS does own land in the Valley. Eventually, a third high school could be built there. The speed at which our community grows over the next few years as a result of the base expansion could expedite timelines.
Why are we not able to do a sales tax increase instead of a property tax increase?
A sales tax has to be approved by the legislature. There is not a mechanism in place to do that at the district level. The sole option the Legislature provides for school districts to do large scale facility improvements is a general obligation bond, which increases property taxes.
Did the task force consider accessibility issues for students (and the public) with physical disabilities and ADA when making its recommendations? If so, how is this reflected in the plan? If not, please explain why.
Absolutely. New buildings will be ADA accessible. There is also money in the plan to address some areas that are not ADA accessible in some of our older buildings.
How much has our student body grown?
In 1945, the district’s enrollment was 2,688. Today, our enrollment is over 13,700, so our student population is more than five times as big now than it was in the 1940s.
What would three $30 million elementary schools look like? What would two $45 million middle schools look like? Are we getting a Chevy Impala or a Lexus?
A $30 million elementary school will meet our students’ needs today and in the future. There will be space on-site to add onto a building should we need it. The building will be constructed using sustainable products to keep maintenance costs down. For example, geothermal systems would be used for heating and ventilation. Playgrounds would have protective services – not pea gravel like we currently use. The building and playground would be ADA accessible and have safe pick-up and drop-off lanes. Additionally, each classroom at the elementary level will be a minimum of 900 square feet and bigger at the middle school level. The price increase for the middle schools comes as a result of more square feet.
The cost includes furnishings, architecture fees, and any required site modifications. In response to the comparison of an Impala or a Lexus – we would not include luxuries like a granite floor, but the schools will be built to last, which means the facilities won’t have sheet rocked walls, but masonry walls. We will pay more for sustainable products up front in order to recognize the savings in maintenance costs for decades to come.
Would a $19 million fine arts wing at Stevens High School resemble Carnegie Hall?
No. That $19 million figure includes ADA improvements and theatrical lighting upgrades to the current theater. It also includes new practice spaces and safety and security measures throughout the buildings. It will pay for things like asbestos floor tile abatement, fire sprinklers, school parking lot and site modifications.
And what does $30 million for deferred district maintenance mean? Are the roofs caving? The foundations crumbling? Does $30 million not go as far as it once did?
These dollars would be used to update obsolete light fixtures, energy inefficient single pane windows and doors at our older buildings, heating systems, and fire sprinkler systems. These funds would be used to do hazardous material abatement, ADA upgrades, elevator upgrades, keyless access systems and other security improvements. These funds would also be used to convert classrooms into lab and other spaces for STEAM and pathways.