Referendum to go on November ballotAfter weeks of debate about whether to attempt a 2012 referendum vote, the Red Wing School Board decided Monday — just days before the filing deadline — to go ahead.
By: Sarah Gorvin, The Republican Eagle
After weeks of debate about whether to attempt a 2012 referendum vote, the Red Wing School Board decided Monday — just days before the filing deadline — to go ahead.
In a resolution vote, all six present members of the board voted to file three questions with the county auditor. The last day to do so is Friday. Board member Paul Kramp was absent.
The first question will ask voters to renew the district’s operating levy, which would expire at the end of 2013. The money from the current operating referendum makes up about 15 percent of the general fund. The district is asking for a flat renewal for five years, extending the referendum to 2019.
The second question will ask voters to approve a facilities bond of just more than $33 million to expand Burnside Elementary School to accommodate all kindergarten through grade 4 classrooms, turn Sunnyside Elementary School into a pre-kindergarten center and address maintenance and classroom configuration in all buildings.
Because a portion of the district’s debt service will fall off next year, this bond would not increase the tax levy. However, the district’s debt would be extended by 18 years. The second question is contingent on the first question passing.
The third question will ask voters to approve a $4.6 million bond to improve and update the district’s athletic facilities. This would increase the tax levy; a homeowner with a house valued at $100,000 would pay $9 more in property taxes each year. This question is contingent on the first two passing.
Up until Monday’s meeting, the board had made no final decisions on the referendum vote. However, they decided on approving the three questions with some discussion, but little debate.
“I think we’ve done our due diligence as far as examination points of dollars and space and I think the board is aware of what our needs are,” Chairman Mitch Boldt said.
The board has been discussing the referendum since October 2011. Since then, members have held community input meetings to identify issues, studied current facilities needs and discussed bond needs.
“We’ll get a good read on how people feel,” Board member Mike Christensen said. “If it fails then we have to get up and do it again. Let’s find out where people stand on it.”
If the 2012 referendum vote fails, the district can put it to vote again in 2013.
Like in past meetings, Board member Steve Anderson again brought up the fact that the district has been dealing with space issues for years. He mentioned the move of the fifth-graders to the middle school and eighth-graders to the high school before the 2010-11 school year.
“This has been going on for a while,” he said. “Now it’s time to do something that’s bigger to solve the problem long term.”
Christensen, who had previously expressed concern about the prospect of having the district’s two major hubs — Burnside and the high school — on opposite ends of town, said Monday that it’s a reality the district will have to work with.
“We have to balance our wishes with reality. We have two schools that were built on two different sides of town,” he said. “It would have been nice to have them in a single place, but we’re not there.”
Now, the board said the next step is to communicate with and educate the community, faculty and staff about the vote and the district’s needs. The architecture and consulting firm DLR Group, who also drafted the facilities update plans, will help organize community meetings before November.
“We will definitely be seeking more community input as we add definition to those plans,” Boldt said.
Board member Heidi Jones asked community members to call board members with questions and concerns about the referendum.
“I look forward to sharing information with the community,” she said.