Now what? School districts ask for more funding – but some denied by voters


School boards in a handful of districts will have to come up with a new plan to improve school facilities after voters said no to their funding requests.

At least five school districts held special elections Tuesday, where they asked voters to decide if they wanted to increase their property taxes to fund various capital improvement and construction projects at schools in their community.

Here's a look at what passed, what didn't and how voters will be affected.

Stillwater area votes yes

57.6 percent of voters in the Stillwater Area Public School District, which encompasses about 18 communities, gave the OK to a $97.5 million bond referendum that will fund several district projects meant to help with overcrowding in some schools.

But because existing debt is falling off, residents' property taxes won't increase, the district says.

If voters didn't approve the bond, residents would have saved on average $240 for the year, the Pioneer Press reports.

The district will add an addition and renovation to the high school, build a new elementary school, make other improvements to district facilities, and change grade configuration at the schools, the district notes.

Glencoe-Silver Lake approves

Residents in the Glencoe-Silver Lake School District also passed a bond referendum, which will increase property taxes for the average-priced home by about $142 per year (for 29 years, starting in 2016).

About 62 percent of voters approved the bond. It will allow the district to add classrooms and repurpose program space within the school buildings, as well as close the Helen Baker building, will save on maintenance, heating and busing costs, the district says.

The project is expected to begin in the spring of 2016 and finish in September 2017, KDUZ reports.

Benson School District says no

Voters who live in the Benson Public School District overwhelmingly defeated a $18.7 million building bond that would have raised property taxes by about $50 a year for the average-priced home in Benson.

The unofficial results show 1,354 voters said no, while 651 said yes, the West Central Tribune reports.

The district was seeking the funds to finance improvements at Benson High School and Northside Elementary School. Such improvements included adding more security and additional classrooms, the district notes.

Superintendent Dennis Laumeyer told the West Central Tribune the results of the vote were disappointing. The school board plans to meet in the coming week to discuss the next step.

Perham-Dent schools denies bond

Residents living in the Perham-Dent School District also turned down a bond referendum Tuesday after 56 percent of voters said no to the ballot question, according to the district's website.

The bond would have funded the construction of a new high school and adding classrooms and other additions to the elementary school and middle school, among other improvements, the district says.

Superintendent Mitch Anderson told Forum News Service, "There is no Plan B" after the referendum failed, noting "everything on our referendum came from our community task force. There is no fluff in it."

Anderson added the 100-year-old high school doesn't allow for a 21st century education, the elementary school is overcrowded and the middle school needs maintenance work, Forum News notes.

If approved, the $58.3 million school bond referendum would have increased taxes for the owner of an average-priced home by about $194 a year.

Waterville Elysian Morristown bond a no

School officials in the Waterville-Elysian-Morristown district are surprised after 65 percent of voters in the area denied a $28.7 million renovation and construction project.

"The issues are still there. They're not going to go away," Superintendent Joel Whitehursttold the Mankato Free Press. "That being said, we'll get up tomorrow, the kids will come in and we'll continue to provide them a great education."

The project would have been costly for residents, the Mankato Free Press says, and area farmers would have been hit hard – one farmer would have had to pay an additional $25,000 in taxes, while the owners of an average-priced home in the area would have seen taxes go up by about $313 a year.

It's been over 40 years since the district has made a major investment in its dated school buildings, the district's website says, and this is the third time since 2000 voters have denied a bonding referendum.

School officials were hopeful going into this special election because it was the first time in 15 years the referendum involved remodeling current building instead of building new, the Mankato Free Press notes.

The school board will regroup and try and present a different plan to taxpayers, the newspaper notes.

More referendums

Last week, a handful of school districts in the Twin Cities approved millions of dollars in bonding referendums, including Edina, Shakopee and New Prague. Several more districts are expected to present referendum proposals to voters this year.

In 2014, 55 school districts in Minnesota sought approval for building bonds – the highest in more than a decade – with voters in just 15 districts denying the request, the Minnesota School Boards Association notes.

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