By SARAH PARKER | County Line Editor

Though Royall School District voters approved a $10.9 million construction referendum in April, soaring inflation rates have made the original scope of the project unfeasible at the same price, representatives of contractor Kraemer Brothers told the board of education at its meeting Monday. 

That means the board faces either scaling back construction, asking the district voters for more money for the project, putting it off or canceling it altogether, or doing only certain segments, postponing the rest until later. 

The board will have a special meeting with the referendum committee, along with Kraemer Construction, to discuss their options further. A meeting date had not been set as of press time. 

At present, Kraemer estimates the project will cost $4.5 million over the $10.9 million that was allotted in the April referendum. 

Also, in August, FEMA turned down Royall for a $4 million grant that would have largely funded a dome-shaped storm shelter/gymnasium. 

The project also called for enhanced security, a hallway connecting the two school buildings, and facilities for art and agriculture education, among other items. 

Preliminary construction work on the grounds and the parking lot began this fall. 

Royall hosts annual meeting/budget hearing

At its annual meeting, the board approved a preliminary $2,116,498 local tax levy. The board will set the final levy next month. 

In all, expenditures are slated to increase by 23.8 percent, but that figure includes the $10.9 million that was approved in last April’s building referendum. Otherwise, the increase would have been 4.8 percent, according to Pat Ruddy, who is filling in as the district’s accountant while Jeff Lankey is on medical leave. 

Superintendent Tom Benson said at the annual meeting, “Significant effort has been made in preparation for a successful 2022–23 school year. I’ll continue to view things from the perspective of the new guy on the team. I have no interest in changing anything simply for the sake of change. At the same time, I enjoy the opportunity to ask questions about what we do as well as the how and why we do it. There is plenty of evidence that this is a district filled with smart and hard-working children and adults. If you’re a taxpayer in this district, there’s plenty about which to be proud.”

He also asked the public to consider serving as substitutes in the school, saying the district needed substitutes in all areas, including teaching, food service, and custodial. 

Board President Doug Waterman reported, “School’s going well. The last couple of years have been a struggle with Covid, and the (school staff) have done a terrific job. And with the construction coming on, there’s going to be some challenges, but I have faith in all of them, and hopefully all will go smoothly.”

Other business

• Board member Sara Palamaruk praised the following high school football players for their work at elementary flag-football games: Gabe Keenan, Savon Wainwright, Carter Uppena, Trey Wildes, Ty Wildes, Tucker Wildes, Thomas Clark, Brock Preuss, Tim Roggenbauer, Dylan Velazquez, and Jacob Dragon. 

“They are very appreciated by the parents and the people who are running the program and the kids themselves,” she said. “They love it.”

• The board agreed to hire Kole Huth as the district’s athletic director. Additionally, Sarah Gruen will serve as the fitness center supervisor for the fall semester. 

• Benson noted that the district will look into improving its compensation packages to better retain staff.