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Goodhue School District faces a massive referendum vote in May

GOODHUE—The price tag attached to the May 8 bond election facing the Goodhue School District is a hefty one. With a $30 million asking price, the district knows playing around isn't an option.

"This community has a very low tolerance for game playing," Superintendent Mike Redmond said.

The planning has been years in the making. The district established a Facility Planning Committee almost two years ago.

The challenges facing the district range from safety and security improvements, plumbing, science and FACS labs, and replacing electrical systems from the 1930s and 1950s, to name a few.

Rather than building an entirely new school on the foundation, an option that was considered by the committee, Redmond said the plan to improve the existing structure would make more fiscal sense. Most of the improvements need to come at the center of the building.

Goodhue Elementary School Principal Mark Opsahl, a member of the Facility Planning Committee, said the group had to narrow down a lengthy list of wants to a high priority list needs.

Opsahl was born and raised in Goodhue and said when he walks the hallways, there are some things he remembers from his time in school.

Ann Buck, Goodhue School Board chair and Facility Planning Committee member, said they've heard many comments from former students and current Goodhue residents who can't believe that, in some places, the school remains identical from their time there.

Buck said the work that's been planned "isn't just something that happened overnight."

The climate conditions of the building can be sporadic in certain areas. Opsahl said he has teachers wearing a jacket while teaching in a second-grade classroom. Just down the hall, it's constantly hot.

Even over the recent spring break, Redmond said the school had a major leak in the boys' locker room, flooding the area. They had hoped to find the leaking coming from the shower pipes, but found a burst pipe in a closet. The pipe was so old and corroded it couldn't simply be grabbed without it falling apart.

Redmond said the school closed off the pipe, resulting in three showers not being unusable.

Along with internal issues, Redmond said space has been an issue. The current building has a capacity of 638 students. The district serves 669 students and anticipates growth. The updated building would accommodate 750 students.

One area that would be improved would be Gym 1, which serves as a cafeteria, wrestling room, learning center, and hosts zumba at night. Redmond said they'd change the space into the Elementary School Learning Center.

Ag2School credit

Buck, Opsahl and Redmond know how expensive the project is. They also acknowledge how the cost can fall onto the farmers and homesteads.

In a way to reduce the cost from 65 percent toward agricultural properties, the district for applied and was awarded the Ag2School tax credit. The credit, which started this year, lowers that 65 percent to 40 percent. The 25 percent difference will be paid by the state of Minnesota.

"In terms of property taxes, the real unfairness is, people see it as a perception of wealth, not a flow of income," Redmond said. "We recognize that things were out of whack. And when school districts went to bond for a project like this, which is the only way we can fund a project like this, too much of the burden fell on (agricultural) land or owners of (agricultural) land."

The percentages paid by each type of real estate or property for the district would be:

• Personal property: 1 percent

• Residential non-homestead/season recreational: 3.8 percent

• Commercial/industrial/public utility: 4.4 percent

• Residential homestead: 25.4 percent

• Agricultural: 39.24 percent

Buck said without the tax credit, she doesn't believe referendum planning would be as far along as it is.

All in all, the committee members believe they've gotten the chance to communicate their plans with the public. On May 1, from 2-7 p.m., there will be guided tours of the school for anyone who was unable to attend the previous two open houses.

This referendum is the district's only plan for improving the school. Redmond said taking certain parts out, or only passing certain aspects of the funding wouldn't be fiscally sensible.

"There is no 'Plan B,'" Redmond said. "I think the committee has been as direct, as transparent as they can be ... the committee just felt it was a good comprehensive solution."

The polls will be open noon to 8 p.m. May 8 at the Goodhue Lions Club for all Goodhue School District residents.

Matthew Lambert

Matthew Lambert joined the Red Wing Republican Eagle in March 2018 covering school board, public safety, and writing features. Lambert previously wrote for the Pierce County Herald and River Falls Journal. He is a graduate of Winona State University with a Bachelor's degree in Mass Communication: Journalism. 

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