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Dawson-Boyd Schools voters to decide $22.7M bond

DAWSON -- The Dawson-Boyd School District has bucked the trend as one of the few small, rural school districts to see enrollment growth in the last 10 years.

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DAWSON - The Dawson-Boyd School District has bucked the trend as one of the few small, rural school districts to see enrollment growth in the last 10 years.

But the 17 percent enrollment rise has exacerbated space issues, affecting everything from science and special education classrooms to popular preschool programs. It led Dawson-Boyd School Board members to take a look at all of the facility issues in the high school and elementary school buildings, built in 1976 and 1963, respectively.

The analysis completed by ICS Consulting proved "eye opening" for the board members, according to Superintendent Shane Tappe. In 18 different categories considered by the Minnesota Department of Education to be important for educational success, both buildings failed to meet the standards in more than half of the criteria.

District voters are going to the polls Tuesday to decide a $22.7 million bond. The funds are sought for a building project developed to address a wide range of facility needs. The needs were identified by the analysis, as well as by collecting input from the public and school staff during a 10-month process of holding listening sessions and conducting an online, district-wide survey.

Along with providing increased space, the project seeks to address safety and security as well as basic infrastructure needs. While the school has developed wells for a geothermal heating and cooling system, it relies on the original air handling equipment. The project also aims to replace aged plumbing and electrical systems, and remove asbestos.

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The superintendent said the space needs are many, ranging from adding classrooms to providing break-out areas for special education and science and technology classes. The district's preschool programs are operating at near capacity, but have to share space with other programs.

Tappe said school board members are hopeful. The school has always enjoyed strong support, he said.

"There is a sense of pride. There is a sense of ownership," he said, adding that the school is highly regarded in the Dawson and Boyd communities.

He said school board members moved forward with a February referendum for a number of reasons. They believe that moving sooner than later on issues that need to be addressed will save taxpayer dollars. The district's consultants advised school board members that construction costs are expected to continue to rise by anywhere from 6 to 12 percent a year.

He said board members also expect that other districts will be looking at building needs. Board members feel they will get the most competitive bids by getting out on the market early.

Tappe said the board members also want to move ahead while the Ag2School tax credit is available for agricultural lands. It reduces the tax impact on agricultural lands by 40 percent. That's the equivalent of the state paying 33.3 percent or $7.56 million of the costs. Agricultural lands provide 83 percent of the net tax capacity of the district, he said.

Also, board members are concerned about the growing maintenance costs associated with the aging buildings. They expect that space needs will grow too. The school is projecting a 3 percent enrollment growth in the years ahead, according to the superintendent.

The district has a website offering a detailed look at the project. It also provides a calculator allowing taxpayers to get an estimated tax cost for their individual properties.

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The referendum on the bond comes as residents in the district learned that Tappe is being interviewed as a finalist for the superintendent position with the Staples-Motley School District. Tappe said he hopes that this news doesn't affect voters' thoughts about the bond question.

"This plan isn't about Shane Tappe,'' he said. "This is a community decision. This is about the kids."

Voting will be held from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. at one polling site, the Dawson City Building. Further information on the project and on voting is available at: BoundforBetter.org

If voters approve the bond in Tuesday's referendum, Dawson-Boyd School Board members are aiming for the project's completion by the fall of 2022.

Superintendent Shane Tapp
Superintendent Shane Tapp

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