Moose Lake bond referendum falls to defeatThe district was seeking a $33 million bond referendum in support of the construction of a new school for students in Early Childhood through 12th grade. It was the third referendum the district has sought in the last nine years — and the third to be defeated.
By: Wendy Johnson, Pine Journal
The ballots for the Moose Lake school referendum vote were still being counted at 9:30 Tuesday, but Superintendent Bob Indihar said the writing was already on the wall.
“The bond was defeated soundly,” he reported. “They are still counting but it is obvious.”
In the end, the final tally was 1,138 opposing the proposal and only 646 in favor of it.
The district was seeking a $33 million bond referendum in support of the construction of a new school for students in Early Childhood through 12th grade. It was the third referendum the district has sought in the last nine years — and the third to be defeated.
This year’s plan was a little different, however. The district buildings suffered the ravages of last June’s flooding, which further compromised the aging buildings, some of which were nearly 80 years old. In putting this referendum to the voters, the School Board hoped residents would choose to invest money in a new school facility built on a virtually floodproof 165-acre hilltop site on the south end of town rather than putting a bandaid on the current buildings.
Indihar said the district put some $800,000 in Federal Emergency Management Agency funds into the school to repair flood damages to the degree the school could open its doors last fall. He added, however, that the existing school facility is still in need of approximately $12 million in repairs and upgrades, including such high-ticket expenses as a new roof, new heating and ventilation systems, new electrical systems and updated interior finishes.
And though the new plan may have made sense in theory, Indihar said in the end it didn’t make sense on paper to the citizens who felt was too great a financial burden to bear. The tax base in the district is approximately 75 percent nontaxable/public lands, forcing residents to pay a larger portion of the cost of the school than in many other districts.
“The main issue was the tax impact on our citizens,” he said following the vote count Tuesday night. “We will need to regroup and work hard to get some help at the state level to change the way bonding happens.”
Tuesday night’s failed bond referendum was the second big disappointment for the Moose Lake Schools this week. The district had been hopeful that a special $20 million bond proposal submitted to the Legislature earlier this year might provide a large chunk of the funding for a new school. The plan was a two-pronged initiative along with the Rushford-Peterson School District in southeastern Minnesota who had also suffered flood damage in 2007 and subsequently faced a failed bond referendum. As the current legislative session came to a close at midnight on Monday, however, the districts’ proposed bond funding failed to make it into the limited public works bill.