Five school districts in the region are conducting referendums Tuesday. Voters in Belgrade-Brooten-Elrosa, BOLD, Lac qui Parle Valley, Litchfield and MACCRAY districts will decide levy and/or bonding questions for facilities.
BELGRADE — Voters in the Belgrade-Brooten-Elrosa School District have three questions on the ballot, including two seeking approval for facility improvement projects totaling $20 million.
If the two building bond questions are approved, about $10 million would be spent on long-term deferred maintenance projects like upgrading the heating, ventilation and air-conditioning and electrical infrastructure at the 1964-era elementary school building in Brooten and the 1973-era junior/high school in Belgrade.
Another $10 million would be spent on remodeling and expanding facilities.
The ballot includes a $16.9 million bond for projects including moving the offices and creating a new secure entrance to the east side of the high school, as well as renovating science rooms, the career and technical education spaces and the weight/fitness room.
Proposed improvements at the elementary school include creating a secure entrance, building a new cafeteria and expanding the district’s Jaguar Kids Connection day care program.
The ballot includes a $2.98 million proposal for additional renovations at the high school, including upgrading the performing arts auditorium and kitchen. Implementing this phase of the improvements is contingent upon passage of the $16.9 million bond.
Voters are also being asked to revoke the district’s existing $212-per-pupil operating levy and replace it with a new $661-per-pupil levy. If approved, the 10-year levy would generate about $275,000 in new revenue each year for operating expenses.
If approved, all three questions would result in higher taxes, said Superintendent Patrick Walsh.
Voting takes place 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. at the Brooten City Hall and Belgrade City Center. Absentee voting is also available.
OLIVIA — Voters in the BOLD School District will decide whether to approve a $635-per-pupil operating levy.
The increase would raise an estimated $440,000 annually for the district that serves the communities of Bird Island, Lake Lillian and Olivia.
The district has been deficit spending and has seen its general fund reserve decline from $3.8 million to $1.9 million in the current budget. The district is facing the prospect of $600,000 in cuts in the next budget if the increased operational levy is not approved.
If it is approved, the district would still face a nearly $200,000 gap. Superintendent Dale Brandsoy told an audience in Olivia that the increase is a step toward putting the district on the right track financially. He warned that continued deficit spending could put the district in the red, in which case the state would require a plan to return to a balanced budget.
The district currently has the lowest tax rate among school districts in the region.
Lac qui Parle Valley
MADISON — Voters in the Lac qui Parle Valley School District will decide whether to authorize $39.9 million bond to upgrade the district’s two elementary schools as well as high school/middle school facility.
If approved, the district would undertake $13 million in improvements to the Madison-Marietta-Nassau Elementary School in Madison; $17 million at the Appleton-Milan Elementary in Appleton; and $6 million in improvements to the high school building in rural Madison.
Board members had considered a range of options before moving forward with a plan that upgrades and maintains the existing facilities. A district-wide survey found that 68 percent of respondents favored maintaining the existing elementary schools over a consolidated elementary school.
Agricultural property represents 85 percent of the district’s tax base. School Board members are hopeful that the Ag2School tax credit will help win voter support from farmers in the district. Because of the credit, the state would pay approximately 58 percent of the total project costs, or $23 million.
LITCHFIELD — The voters in the Litchfield School District will decide three ballot questions Nov. 5.
The first question is a $625-per-pupil local operating levy that would raise about $1 million a year for 10 years. The levy is intended to ease budget deficits and prevent future budget cuts.
Question 2 is a $33 million borrowing proposal to remodel schools to develop safe and secure entrances and to update aging parts of the buildings. The funding would take care of many deferred maintenance projects, including a new roof on Lake Ripley Elementary School..
Question 3 can only be passed if the first two questions are approved. It seeks to borrow another $11.4 million to build a new 8-lane swimming pool, remodel the old pool to expand a fitness center and add a soccer field.
Early voting is available during business hours at the Meeker County Courthouse. On Election Day, vote from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. at St. Philip's Church, 821 Fifth St. E., Litchfield.
CLARA CITY — Voters in the MACCRAY School District have two big ballot issues.
The first ballot question asks voters to approve continuing the district’s $1,103.14-per-pupil operating levy. It provides more than $700,000 in revenue annually for the district. If not continued, the district would need to make significant cuts in staffing and programs, according to Superintendent Sherri Broderius.
The second ballot question asks voters to approve a $39.5 million bond issue to build a new elementary school as part of a single-campus system at the high school in Clara City. It also calls for building a 500-seat auditorium, developing a three-station gymnasium, and upgrading the kitchen and dining areas. The $6 million cost of the auditorium is included in the bond total. There is $2 million allocated for decommissioning the existing elementary schools in Raymond and Maynard.
This is the third time voters in the district will be deciding a bond for a single-campus system. Voters rejected both previous proposals, as well as a $56.1 million proposal in 2018 that called for upgrading and maintaining facilities at all three campuses.