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Tax impact sinks Moose Lake bond referendum

Moose Lake Superintendent Bob Indihar was back at work Wednesday morning, facing an even bigger challenge than trying to pass Tuesday's ill-fated referendum.

Moose Lake Superintendent Bob Indihar was back at work Wednesday morning, facing an even bigger challenge than trying to pass Tuesday's ill-fated referendum.

"We need to regroup and work hard to get some help at the state level to change the way bonding happens," Indihar said. "I'm planning to spend a lot of time down at the Legislature next year."

The final tally in Tuesday's vote was 1,138 against the proposal to support a new $33 million school and only 646 in favor of it.

The district was seeking support for a new school to be built on 165 acres of land owned by the district in the south end of town that would house students in Early Childhood through 12th grade. This 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, after the district suffered the ravages of last June's flooding. The disaster further compromised the school's aging buildings, some of which are nearly 80 years old. In putting the current referendum before the voters, the school board hoped residents would understand the expediency of investing money in a new school facility built on a virtually-flood proof site rather than putting a Band-Aid on the current buildings.

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Indihar explained the district put some $800,000 in Federal Emergency Management Act 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 it was too great a financial burden to bear. The tax base in the district is approximately 75 percent non-taxable/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 confirmed following the vote count Tuesday night.

Tuesday night's failed bond referendum was the second big disappointment for Moose Lake Schools this week. The district had been hoping 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 which 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.

Related Topics: EDUCATIONMOOSE LAKE
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