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St. Francis Area Schools
A K-12 public school district serving the communities of Athens Township, Andover, Bethel, East Bethel, Linwood Township, Nowthen, Oak Grove, St. Francis and Stanford Township


Frequently Asked Questions

Click here for printable version of FAQ

What are the major components of the bond referendum?

A detailed summary of the proposed improvements by building is available on the District’s website. In general, major components are as follows:

  • Improvements necessary to address deferred maintenance and physical facility needs within the existing District facilities including replacement of aging infra-structure and interior finishes.
  • Renovations, additions, and site improvements at existing facilities to eliminate portable classrooms, re-organize growing and emerging programs such as special education and other specials, and renovations and updates needed to better accommodate programmatic and curricular goals associated with 21st Century learning concepts.
  • Districtwide safety and security improvements including creation of secure entries to ensure safe and welcoming environments for all District students, staff, community members and guests.
  • Site improvements to improve onsite traffic flow and pedestrian safety.
  • Improvements to activities spaces and amenities to better accommodate current programs and offerings.

Was there any input on this or did the District come up with this on its own?

The District has been planning and positioning itself to be able to present a complete, comprehensive, long-term solution to the public that solidifies the educational and physical well-being of students, staff and facilities within the District. At multiple points over the past year, check-in meetings were conducted with stakeholders and community organizations. The District is comfortable bringing data-driven solutions to the public as developed that are both beneficial to the learning environments for students and are fiscally responsible.

How long will the proposed referendum improvements last?

The District fully realizes the facility investments being proposed are significant and must address our needs and issues long-term. Physical facility improvements such as mechanical and electrical infra-structure, etc. will be designed to be 30 to 40 year solutions. Proposed remodeling and renovation work will be completed with future flexibility in mind so that our buildings are more easily adaptable to future program and educational changes and evolution.

What is the review process for this work? Does the Department of Education get involved?

The District has provided the Minnesota Department of Education (MDE) with all of the required documentation for the proposed improvements and referendum in the form of a Review & Comment submittal. MDE will review all submitted information to ensure that the project is both fiscally sound and educationally appropriate. Once complete, MDE will notify the District of its Review & Comment and approval will be published in the local paper prior to the bond referendum vote for confirmation by District residents.

How is a bond referendum different from an operating levy?

A bond referendum asks voters to support using bond money for the purpose of building projects. An operating levy asks voters to support additional funds to finance learning by hiring teachers, pay utility costs, purchasing learning materials required to run our schools, etc. While both require voter support, the two different funding sources can only be used for its required intent and are tracked and budgeted completely separate from one another.

If the bond referendum passes, can that money be used for staffing in the district?

No. A bond referendum asks voters to support using bond money for the purpose of building projects. No staffing costs are allowed.

Will community members, staff, students and others have input in the planning and design process after the vote?

Absolutely. Approval of the bond referendum by voters on Tuesday, May 23, 2017 will authorize the detailed planning and design process to begin. Just as the planning to this point was driven by input, the design process will involve interested staff and community members to assist the design team in development of final solutions for renovations and other improvements to ensure that they are all appropriate for our District.

What is the timeline for the project?

The plan is to start the design phase when the funding is approved. Construction could start on select scope items as early as fall of 2017 and in the spring of 2018, major portions of work would commence throughout the District. All construction will be scheduled to minimize disruption to ongoing District operations during the school year.

What will happen if the bond referendum fails?

This plan is the direct outcome of months of planning and development. As such, there is no “Plan B” ready to be implemented. If the bond referendum were to fail, the District will need to go into planning again to determine the next course of action. What we can say is this:

  • The needs won’t go away. Physical conditions will continue to age, or in some cases deteriorate and the District will need to find some way to address those issues.
  • Educational needs that are to be addressed through the referendum improvements will continue to exist. Use of numerous portable classrooms will continue throughout the District, and programs with limited or inadequate space will continue to struggle
  • The time to address these issues is now as costs will only increase with time. If the District chooses to ask for support on the same issue again, the costs will almost certainly be higher.

I am hearing that there are already plans finished for the school improvements. Is that true?

No, there are no plans created at this time. There are parameters determined and very conceptual ideas being explored. These parameters are used to be able to establish a budget for the facility’s needs. This includes square footage for renovations or additions, number of rooms, quality of building systems, etc. Staff and community input in a lengthy design process following the referendum will be critical to ensuring that the proposed improvements are designed to meet our needs.

Why didn’t the District take care of the buildings in the first place so we wouldn’t need to spend this much to fix them? How do they intend to keep them up after these improvements are made?

The District’s yearly-deferred maintenance budget is a fraction of the yearly maintenance needs. While the District staff does a fantastic job of keeping the buildings operational and looking great, the size and scope of long-term maintenance projects regularly exceed that amount and over time this adds to the backlog of projects to complete. Currently, the only way to pay for large maintenance projects like these is to ask for voters to support a referendum to complete these projects.

The proposed referendum improvements will address decades of maintenance needs that have been unable to be completed over time based on available funding. Completion of this work will in essence “reset” the list of maintenance needs within the District, which will allow staff to become more proactive in addressing needs as they arise in the future. In addition, recent legislative changes in how schools can access funding for on-going maintenance work will improve the District’s ability to keep pace with annual maintenance and facilities needs moving forward.

When the bond referendum work has been completed, will we still have old portable classrooms at many of our buildings?

No. One of the primary goals of the bond referendum is to eliminate use of existing portable classrooms. Many of these 'temporary portable classroom units' were put in use over 30 years ago and are in very poor condition.

Why did the District decide to seek approval to build an activities center and what will be included?

During its planning efforts, the District sought input from numerous stakeholder groups and community members. Many community members were very vocal about the need to consider adding an activities center to St. Francis High School at this time. Although the addition has not yet been fully designed, it is anticipated that the new activities center will include a 4-station gym floor, elevated walking track, restrooms, concessions, team rooms, multi-purpose area, storage and other support spaces.

The proposed activities center will provide additional physical education instructional space, improve practice times and activities scheduling, facilitate opportunities for expanded community education programming and expand opportunities for use by students, staff and community members within our District.

Would the new activities center at St. Francis High School be open to the public 24/7?

The proposed activities center will provide additional physical education instructional space, improve practice times and activities scheduling, facilitate opportunities for expanded community education programming and expand opportunities for use by students, staff and community members within ISD 15. Planning for use of the new activities center will happen after the bond referendum is approved. Input from stakeholders will be gathered. It will likely include some open gym time and the elevated track will likely have a schedule of time that is available for community use.

Does this accommodate for long-range planning and growth?

Yes. The proposed renovations and improvements will be developed to provide space for future flexibility and modest enrollment growth. Portable classrooms will be replaced with permanent classrooms, existing spaces will be renovated and expanded as required to better accommodate educational programming needs, both now and into the future.

How accurate are the cost estimates that were developed?

Detailed cost estimates have been developed for each component of the proposed referendum with the assistance of consultants to the District. Estimates were based on costs developed from local and regional cost indices and market conditions as well as current bid histories for work of comparable scope and size. Costs are considered to be total project cost and are inclusive of construction costs as well as necessary project-related costs such as design fees, permit and plan review fees, furniture and equipment, etc. A modest contingency factor has also been included in the current project cost estimates.

I have heard that St. Francis Middle School needs to be replaced. Why wouldn’t we just build a new middle school?

Regardless of public sentiment, the middle school facility is not at a point where replacement is needed or warranted from a physical condition standpoint. In addition, the existing middle school facility is adequate from a size and capacity standpoint. In fact, a large portion of the facility is actually newer than many of the elementary school facilities.

As presented during one of the School Board's work sessions, a replacement middle school facility could cost as much as $70 to $75 million. The current bond referendum proposal includes just over $17 million in improvements to the existing St. Francis Middle School. A reinvestment of just over 20 percent is a very fiscally responsible proposal. The Minnesota Department of Education will review the proposed improvements to ensure that all are financially and educationally advisable for the District.

The proposed improvements will renovate and modernize numerous areas within the facility, replace outdated and worn interior finishes, and address critical infra-structure and physical facility needs. These improvements will drastically improve the educational function of the facility.

Why does anything have to happen at this time?

The maintenance needs that exist within our facilities are extensive and expensive. Portable classrooms are being utilized at multiple buildings within our District and are in poor condition. Numerous educational programs are being delivered in inadequate or outdated spaces. A portion of our elementary students are currently displaced to St. Francis Middle School and are not able to attend school in their own facility. Existing debt is falling off for our District’s taxpayers. These factors all point to now is the time to act.

Will there be an opportunity for the public to ask questions and hear information about the bond referendum?

Yes, there will be community meetings. As these are scheduled, the District will provide additional information regarding dates and times to hear more about the bond referendum firsthand. District administration will also be present at many public gatherings. If you have a group that would like information, contact ISD 15 Central Services Center at 763-753-7040 to schedule an informational meeting.

If I can’t attend a public meeting, who can I contact?

Email questions to or call 763-753-7040. We will attempt to provide answers to any question received.

Where can I get an absentee ballot?

All absentee voters must first complete an absentee ballot application. Contact Anoka County Elections for the form or contact Ann Johnson, ISD 15 Central Services Center, at 763-753-7044 or

How can I get involved with helping the bond referendum pass?

Independent School District 15 can provide information about the bond referendum and the process that led to it. Oftentimes a separate independent citizen committee forms to promote the bond referendum and communicates why they believe it is important for the District.

I own a $150,000 home. What would be my increase in taxes?

It would be $52.84 per year, or $4.40 per month for Question 1.It would be an additional $49.23 per year, or $4.10 per month for Question 2, as Question 2 is dependent on Question 1 passing. Additional information regarding the tax impact on your property can be found here.

How will the new debt be structured in relation to the debt service that is scheduled to expire?

A large portion of ISD 15’s current bonded debt is set to expire after 2018. The proposed new debt service payments will be structured to “wrap” around the current debt service (see graph below). Existing debt service set to decrease after 2018 is shown in red on the graph. The new debt associated with Question 1 and Question 2 of the proposed bond referendum is shown in green and blue respectively. This is a very typical financing structure for many school districts as they look to minimize large swings in annual tax impacts for the property owners of the district.

Why do other school districts have higher/lower tax impacts for similar projects?

The tax impact is based on so many different factors that a fair comparison cannot be made between school districts. The tax impact within a specific district is dependent on the structure of the bonds, other capital bonds already in place (or expiring), total tax capacity, state equalization aid and other factors.

How will farm land be affected by the bond referendum? Are farmers taxed per acre?

Farm land tax impact is calculated at different rates depending on size, homestead and value. Click here for the Tax Calculator to see the actual impact for your specific land. The Minnesota State Legislature is also currently considering a bill that could reduce the tax burden on agriculture land by up to 40 percent, if the bill were to be approved.

Will there be an opportunity for the public to ask questions and hear information about the bond referendum?

Absolutely. There will be a variety of means to learn more and ask questions. Please refer to the ISD 15 website for meetings, FAQs, information on scope and tax impact. Feel free to call the superintendent's office as well.

Do you have a question that was not answered here? Email

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