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6th time's a charm: Worthington finally approves school investment

The southern Minnesota city has seen its student numbers explode due to inward immigration.
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At the sixth time of asking, voters in Worthington approved a series of funding measures that will address the city's over-capacity schools.

The southern Minnesota has been the subject of national headlines over the tensions between long-standing residents and taxpayers, and the rising immigrant population that has resulted in school budgets and class sizes stretched to breaking point.

Independent School District 518 has asked for a funding boost to address this in each of the past six years, with the previous five votes failing at the polls.

But that losing streak came to an end on Tuesday, as voters narrowly passed three referendum questions that will result in $34 million of new borrowing to expand local schools.

Most of this money will go towards a new middle school for 900 students, while voters also approved giving local farmers and agriculture businesses a tax credit to offset the additional financial burden being taken on to pay for the school investment.

Voters were asked two questions regarding the new school, with a measure requesting $26.7 million to build the school for 4th and 5th grade students passing by 136 votes.

The second question asked voters to approve an even larger amount of borrowing, $33.7 million, so the school could be made even larger to include 3rd grade students as well – this passed by just 19 votes.

The vote to give farmers a tax credit was passed by a vote of 1,760 to 1,662, a margin of 98.

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In a statement, ISD 518 said: "The approval of this referendum will set up our district and community for success and prosperity as students and staff are able to teach and learn in the spaces they deserve and our agricultural community is able to utilize a tax credit set in place by the state to offset the financial burden laid upon them.

"It was through community feedback and suggestions that this plan was decided upon by the school board. District 518 would like to extend a special thank you to all those who offered thoughts and ideas throughout the process of arriving at a community supported solution."

School board chairman Brad Schaffer told the Worthington Daily Globe: "I’m excited we can now work to start fixing the (overcrowding) problem instead of just talking about it."

"It’s a nice feeling to be able to move forward, (rather) than stay bogged down in the same problem."

In other school district referendums on Tuesday, the White Bear Lake school district approved the biggest school bond in Minnesota history, $326 million, for various construction projects as it prepares for student enrollment to increase by around 2,000 over the next decade, per the Star Tribune.

The money will be used for upgrades in every school building, ad the construction of a new elementary school in Hugo.

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