Weather Forecast


Horace May bus area, parking expansion on School Board agenda

The Bemidji School Board will consider Monday soliciting bids for a project to expand and rebuild the bus area and add parking spaces at Horace May Elementary School.

The board will meet at 6:30 p.m. in the Bemidji High School Media Center.

Besides the Horace May project and other agenda items, the board will discuss holding an operating levy referendum in the fall and consider potential reductions and additions in programs and positions. It will also consider approving plans for construction at the Bemidji Community Arena.

The Horace May project will separate buses from automobile traffic, which has been a recurring safety strategy throughout the school district, according to Chris Leinen, director of business services.

He said the project will expand the bus area to include a bus turnaround area and will add about 75 parking spaces to help ease overcrowding.

The estimated cost of the project is about $114,498 for the expansion and rebuilding of the bus area and $125,937 for the parking expansion.

According to Leinen, the project has been adapted to be more flexible for possible future integration with the expansion of U.S. Highway 71. Parking lot barriers will be mobile and curb and gutter have been kept to a minimum.

A fence will separate the educational area from the new parking lot to keep children and vehicles apart.

Also, the lighting scheme will be improved for added safety and future flexibility.

The project also proposes adding a right turn lane to the automobile exit to facilitate exiting from the parking lot.

Besides the expansion, the existing bus area will be reworked to improve the driving surface and enhance drainage capabilities.

Other agenda items

On Monday, the board plans to determine how much money to ask for in an operating levy referendum this fall, how long the levy would last and how the money generated from the levy would be used.

The board will also consider at the meeting potential reductions and additions in programs and positions.

The board has recently reviewed possible ways to trim the school district's operating budget by about $692,000 for the 2008-09 fiscal year with staffing adjustments. About 80 percent of the operating budget pays for personnel.

Leinen projects the school district will have an operating deficit of about $875,000 during the 2008-09 fiscal year due to the state's "underfunding" of K-12 education that year.

The state Legislature increased the per-pupil formula by 2 percent for the 2007-08 fiscal year, which is the current budget year, and by 1 percent for the 2008-09 fiscal year. For the first year of the biennium, the Legislature also targeted additional money toward special education.

To remain at an 8 percent general fund balance during the 2008-09 fiscal year, the school district must reduce its operating budget by about $692,000, Leinen said. A school district policy calls for a general fund balance of about 8-10 percent of the fiscal year budget.

At the meeting, the board will also consider a request by the Bemidji Community Arena Committee for board approval to move forward with the completion plan on the arena, which is located on the BHS campus. Board approval is required as part of the lease agreement.

According to Superintendent Jim Hess, the plan calls for construction to begin this summer including a new addition to the building to contain restrooms, a concession area, a ticket area and youth hockey locker rooms.

Listening session

The board's monthly listening session will be held from 5:45 p.m. to 6:15 p.m. Monday in the BHS Commons. Board member John Pugleasa will be available to visit with the public.