School board to decide on stadium

    At exactly the same time that plans for the new Vikings Stadium were being unveiled to the public on Monday, May 13, New Prague Area School Board members were discussing its own athletic facility needs and how to finance them during their workshop meeting.
    Superintendent Larry Kauzlarich went over the issues for upgrading the 25-year-old Trojan Field facility. He pointed out that the two major factors driving the proposal are that the track facility needs upgrading and the soccer fields are substandard for varsity play.
    He then reviewed various options that had been discussed. He said the cost of simply rebuilding the track as-is would be $760,000 and the cost of adding lights and bleachers to the current varsity soccer game field would be $600,000.
    For the same cost ($1.36 million) the district could update the track, move the lights at the track/football field and upgrade the soil so that the field could be used for multiple events.
    The cost for upgrading the track, moving lights and putting in artificial turf would bring the cost of the project up to $2.4 or $2.5 million.
    “The advantage that you would have with artificial turf is that it could be used for everything, you don’t need to worry about the weather or damaging the turf from overuse,” Kauzlarich said.
    He noted that there were other improvements that the board might want to consider, including a new pressbox, scoreboard, drainage, fencing and changes to relieve congestion in the new concession stand/ticket gate at the entrance to the stadium.
    Wold Architects, which is consulting the district on the project, estimated with all the options, the project could be about $2.95 million. Kauzlarich said he believed many of the projects could be done for less than what the architect is estimating. 
    Board member Jerry Walerius said in looking at some of the options, the board needs to look at what’s necessary and could be done later.
    Kauzlarich said he understood. “When we started, we were talking about just the track and field, all these other things are adding up,” he said.
    The board also looked at options for paying for the improvements. One option is to put the issue up to a bond referendum in November, asking voters to pay for the improvements, with the bonds to be paid back over a 10-year period with an increase in property taxes.
    The other option is to use a Capital Facilities bond, which does not require a referendum. The cost of the bonds would be repaid from the district’s general fund over a 10- to 15-year period. Because the money would come from the general fund, it would be levy-neutral, meaning there would be no increase in taxes.
    Kauzlarich pointed out that the district is looking at a possible technology referendum either this year or next and will be looking to go back to voters within the next few years to renew the current operating levy. He recommended trying to limit the number of times they ask voters to raise their taxes.
    He also pointed out that while the district would not see a levy increase with the capital improvement bonds, at the same time the board shouldn’t “hoodwink” the people on the issue.
    “It is revenue neutral as far as the levy goes, but the district is still spending money.”
    He said the finances of the district are strong, with a good fund balance due to the budget adjustments.
    “You could, if you wanted to, just pay for all the improvements and you’d still have the same fund balance you had last year... but I wouldn’t recommend it,” he said.
    One advantage of going with the capital facilities bond is that it can be done anytime. If board members wanted to do a referendum, they would need to make that decision at the May 28 meeting in order to meet all the deadlines for the November referendum. Using the capital facilities bond, they can take more time to see what is needed and make the decision to go ahead before November.
    It was also pointed out that if the district goes ahead with the capital facilities bond, voters could still force a referendum by presenting a petition from 15 percent of voters. “So there is a protection for the public,” he said.
    Kauzlarich asked board members to be ready to discuss this at the May 28 meeting. Board members will gather at 5:30 p.m. at Trojan Field to tour the current facilities and see what areas might need upgrading.
    Incoming superintendent Tim Dittberner said the district is at a point with the track that something needs to be done. “It’s falling apart,” he said.
    And as for soccer, “For both the boys and girls, it’s a second-class facility compared to what we have for other sports.
    Board member Jeanne Kubes said she felt the capital facilties bond was appropriate for the projects. “To me this is taking care of our what we currently have.” 
    Walerius agreed that the Capital Facilities Bond was the way to go, “But I want to see exactly what we’re going to do and how much it’s going to cost,” he said.