Goodhue's big ask, part two

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GOODHUE, Minn.—After a $30 million referendum failed on May 8, the school district will be asking voters to support a new referendum, this time being a $26.9 million option.

The Goodhue School Board approved the resolution unanimously at its Aug. 20 meeting after a short presentation by Superintendent Mike Redmond.

Redmond, along with Board members Ann Buck, Jerry Stehr and Jerod Thomforde, are members of a Facilities Planning Committee that has been meeting with regularity for two years.

But after voters rejected the May 8 referendum 500-449, the committee has been working hard to learn why community members voted yes and no. The committee sent out anonymous surveys in June to all of the residents who voted, receiving 352 of the 949 back.

Redmond and Buck said getting the surveys was instrumental in the decision making process of cutting $3.9 million from the previous plan. Redmond complemented committee members for the job they've done saying the conversations were always centered on what was best for the district.

"They continued to go back to the priorities," Redmond said. "What are the priorities? It's obviously student learning and then you know it's expensive and you want to be able to look people in the eye and justify that, 'yup, that's a needed expense.'"

In his presentation, Redmond said the problems inside the school — infrastructural needs, space concerns and security improvements — won't be going away any time soon.

The school, originally built in 1935, hasn't seen an addition since 2003. Redmond's presentation outlined the needs for upgrading and replacing original mechanical systems and classrooms.

Last year, the district was serving 670 students per day, not counting the preschool, when the building only has a capacity for 638 students. This upcoming school year shows that enrollment numbers will be similar to that of last year.

Two ballot questions

There will be two questions on the ballot:

• The first asks voters to support a general obligation school buildings bond that will not exceed $26.985 million.

• The second question, which will only be pass if the first question does, asks voters to add $2.025 million to be included, bringing the total to $29.010 million. The money would go toward efficient building space underneath the cafeteria, elevated walking track in one of the gyms, and additional classrooms.

Due to state aid and the Ag2School Tax Credit, the Minnesota will take on $7.8 million if the first question were to pass, leaving the local property taxpayers with $18.8 million over 20 years. If the second question passes, the state will take on $8.5 million and residents will pay for $20.1 million.

As far as differences from the May referendum request , the committee settled on eliminating 2,700 square feet of administration space, moving the high school classrooms to on top of the cafeteria, building a metal building for a fourth gym that would be used for preschool, a weight room, wrestling space, health classroom and a multipurpose space, plus refinement of costs to $215 square feet for new construction.

"We tried to cut without making it hurt too bad," Buck said. "Not cheapening it or taking away too much."

Redmond said the academic and structural needs didn't go away, rather changed and took away other areas to make it work.

"When you look at the big picture, it's the right thing to do," Redmond said. "And we still feel those spaces, even though we've reduced the cost, they'll take care of the needs we've got."

Buck said after the meeting that she, along with the committee, didn't feel that asking voters to return to the polls on Nov. 6 would be too much to ask. Redmond agreed, saying they had discussion about possibly putting the referendum vote on the Aug. 14 Primary Election.

"We've been as transparent as possible," Buck said. "I do hope people come out and vote."

On why the referendum had previously failed, Redmond said the committee wasn't direct enough with the community and that will be different this time around.

"We lost a lot of people along the way ... and that's on us," Redmond said. "We didn't communicate it well. I don't thing we communicated the net tax amount for owners of (agricultural) land as well as we could've."

If Question 1 passes, agricultural landowners will take on 37.63 percent of the cost, with residential homesteads taking on 24.36 percent.

While there's no guarantee the referendum will pass in November, Buck said based on the information they've gotten from residents and the action taken from the committee and School Board, she feels they have support from the community.

"I'm not going to say we are for sure ... I think there's a lot more positive feedback that we're getting and comments," Buck said.