What does it cost to operate two school buildings in two towns?

That question has been on the minds of the Zumbrota-Mazeppa School District for months while trying to determine a school bond referendum.

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At the July 22 School Board meeting, Superintendent Michael Harvey delivered those numbers to show what it costs to operate both locations.

Harvey broke down the costs from last year between the two locations by comparing the cost per student and cost per square foot in each building.

Preschool through grade 2 and grades 7-12 are located at the larger campus in Zumbrota. These grades equate to 70 percent-or 885 students --o f the total student body.

To operate the Zumbrota campus, it costs almost $598,000, when looking at custodial, busing, administrative assistants, HVAC and additional staff. Compare that to Mazeppa, which serves 384 students and costs some $382,000 to operate.

Single campus

Questions over whether the board and district should consider one site have been discussed since the planning meetings last year. The cost of constructing a consolidated campus was estimated to exceed $100 million.

The district opted to present a referendum that would focus on remodeling and additions to both campuses. Voters rejected the referendum, totaling $49.95 million, 1,159-983 in May.

With a survey of district residents underway, board members said they want to be able to weigh and communicate every option possible for a future referendum.

Harvey said that residents should focus more on the cost per pupil numbers, less on the cost per square foot numbers, because that's what the state of Minnesota is paying the district for.

Harvey took the total cost of each school divided by the amount of students that attended that school.

The cost of operating the Mazeppa building equals, after factoring in additional costs, roughly $122,880.

If the district were to consolidate to one campus, the bus route between the two would be cancelled, taking away about $50,000. The total cost savings would be $72,880.

Minimal savings

To go to one site, the district wouldn't save a significant amount of money either, only a fraction of a percent, according to Harvey.

Harvey acknowledges that other factors could be introduced, but even increasing certain areas, even to the point of doubling or tripling it would still leave the district in a tough position.

"It's not a million dollars, I can guarantee you that," Harvey said. "It's not a half-a-million dollars in savings, it's much smaller than that if you were to try and go to one site."

On Aug. 7, the board will hold a special meeting in the auditorium of the middle/high school. The main agenda item will be to discuss the community survey results and decide what direction their referendum plan should take.

Harvey said he hopes that residents will attend to learn and talk about the survey results.

Thus far, 500 people have responded to the survey. If you are a resident, the survey will be closed July 29.