Elk Mound school board approves agreement with Tyr Energy – Elk Creek Solar Project
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By LEAnn R. Ralph
ELK MOUND — The Elk Mound Board of Education has approved a donation agreement with Tyr Energy Development Renewables that will pay the school district $60,000 per year for 20 years as part of the Elk Creek Solar Project.
The payments will begin after the solar project is up and running, said Eric Wright, school district administrator, at the Elk Mound Board of Education’s March 27 meeting.
Elk Creek Solar/TED Renewables has filed a formal application with the Public Service Commission of Wisconsin to build a 300-megawatt solar generating facility with a 76.6 megawatt battery storage system on 2,500 acres in the Town of Spring Brook.
The Elk Creek Solar Project is expected to be commissioned by end of 2024, with an inservice date in 2025.
State law requires revenue sharing with the county and the Town of Spring Brook. Dunn County would receive $700,000 per year, and the Town of Spring Brook would receive $500,000 per year based on a formula included in state law.
School districts are not included in the state law, and because the solar project is considered a utility, the Elk Mound school district would lose the property tax revenue from the land included in the solar project once the utility is up and running.
The Elk Mound school board considered the donation agreement with TED Renewables at the January meeting and asked Wright to obtain clarification on the agreement.
School board members were concerned that if the solar project was sold after it was built that the company purchasing the project would not have to pay the school district.
Legal clarification was received that if TED Renewables sells the solar project after it is built that the company purchasing the project will be responsible for the remainder of the $60,000 per year payments, Wright said at the March 27 meeting.
The Elk Mound school district will be able to use the money for whatever needs are identified, and the money will not affect the school district’s revenue limit because it will be a donation.
State law limits school districts on the amount of property tax revenue that the school district can collect and limits school district revenue in other ways as well.
For example, school districts receive zero benefit from having a Tax Increment Finance District within the school district, because when the TIF district is closed out and the school district receives the amount of tax revenue that accrued in the TIF account over the past 20 or more years, the state deducts that amount from the state aid the school district will receive.
The Elk Mound Board of Education unanimously approved the donation agreement with TED Renewables.
School board member
The Elk Mound Board of Education has appointed Daren Dummer to fill the position held by Loren Hanson.
Hanson died January 29 after serving on the Board of Education for 25 years.
In addition to the application from Dummer, the school board received an application from Jenny Plemon.
During a closed session, the school board interviewed Dummer and Plemon and asked each of them the same six questions.
Following the closed session, the school board appointed Dummer.
Dummer will serve in Hanson’s position for one year, and then there will be a special election in April of 2024 to fill the position.
Two other school board positions also will be up for election in April of 2024.
Dummer took the oath of office immediately after the school board approved his appointment.
School board members Pat Rhude and Mark Cedarblade will be retiring from the board in April. Since the March 27 meeting was their last meeting, and the Elk Mound Board of Education thanked them for their years of dedicated service.
Rhude and Cedarblade have each served three three-year terms on the Elk Mound school board.
At the March 27 meeting, the Elk Mound Board of Education also approved a wrestling cooperative agreement with McDonell Central Catholic High School in Chippewa Falls.
During the citizens’ comments portion of the meeting, four people spoke in favor of the wrestling cooperative.
The cooperative will be for both a girls’ and a boys’ team and for high school students only, Wright said.
Unfortunately, the Elk Mound school district does not have enough bus drivers to provide transportation to McDonell so parents will have to take the students, he said.
The wrestling cooperative will begin in the 2023-2024 school year.
The budget for the 2022-2023 school year is right on track, Wright said.
Because purchase orders were issued under this year’s budget but some items are on backorder, the projects might not be completed before the end of the school year June 30, he said.
A laser has been on backorder for the technology education department, and several buses may not be delivered until June. Some blacktopping also remains to be completed, Wright said.
The Elk Mound school board has previously approved making up three snow days, and one day was added to the end of the year.
The Elk Mound school board also has approved adding 15 minutes to each school day until the end of the school year for extra instructional minutes to make up for snow days.
At the March 27, meeting, the school board approved not making up an additional snow day because Elk Mound will have ample instructional minutes by the end of the school year.
The last day of school is expected to be June 2.
In other business, the Elk Mound Board of Education:
• Received a reminder that the Elk Mound High School play will be performed April 14 and April 15.
• Learned that four-year-old kindergarten visitation will be held April 14 and April 21.
• Received a reminder that Forward testing will take place at the elementary, middle school and high school in April.
• Learned there will be a mock car crash held on April 21 prior to the Elk Mound High School prom. The mock car crash will be held behind the high school by the bus garage. Residents in Elk Mound may see a helicopter landing at the school as part of the exercise, Wright said.
• Approved suggested revisions for school district policies suggested by Neola and had a first reading for a new policy on advertising and commercial activities. The school board will consider approval of the new policy after a second reading at next month’s meeting.
• Approved safety drills completed as per Act 143.
• Accepted the resignation of Kyle Hazen, assistant cross-country coach. Hazen has served as the assistant cross country coach for six years.
• Approved the Safe Return Plan as required by the Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief (ESSER) funding received by the school district. Earlier in the meeting, Wright outlined how the district had spent the ESSER funds. The Safe Return Plan must be approved by the school board every six months and must remain on the school district’s website until September of 2024. Two changes were made to the plan because the school district no longer has on-site testing for COVID-19 and the school district no longer sprays down buses after every route.
• Approved renewing the self-funded dental plan with Delta Dental for the 2023-2024 school year. The premiums remain the same as last year with zero increase.
Following a closed session, the Elk Mound Board of Education:
• Approved hiring Penny Holzwarth as the high school assistant track coach.
• Approved hiring Stephanie Thortsen as a food service employee.
• Approved hiring Aaron Walczak as the assistant cross country coach.
The Elk Mound Board of Education meets next on April 24.