Grand Meadow votes down school referendum

Published 10:20 am Wednesday, March 12, 2014

An artist’s rendering shows what the complex could look like.

An artist’s rendering shows what the complex could look like. File Photo.

Officials: Issue could return to future ballots

Grand Meadow residents voted down Grand Meadow Public Schools’ $13.7 million referendum Tuesday, but school officials said they’ll continue looking into options to address the need for more space.

Though the results have yet to be confirmed by the Minnesota Secretary of State’s office, 448 residents voted against the referendum to add two traditional school buildings and renovate the schools’ domes. Only 266 people supported the referendum, according to Superintendent Jerry Reshetar.

“Our team will meet again and we’ll sort out what we’re going to do next and put together a timeline,” he said.

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District officials sought the referendum in response to increasing student enrollment and a large student population coming into the district over the next several years.

The increase could have officials once again approaching residents with another referendum soon.

“We’re going to have to go at it again, simply because in a year we’ll run out of classroom space,” he said. “We’ll be out of space in a year, so we’re going to have to sort together plan B.”

The district has a little more than 400 students K-12 enrolled this year. According to a demographic report, Grand Meadow could have up to 450 students within two years, based on Mower County birth records and population trend information gathered by a district and community committee and verified by financial firm Northland Financial.

The school is already over capacity, according to Principal Paul Besel. Some areas of the school, such as the woodworking and metal shops, are overcrowded with students during classtime and computer labs have already been shuffled to other areas of the building to make room for elementary classrooms.

That will only get worse over time. Based on projections, the district could get by during the next year or so but would have to look for outside classrooms or rentable trailers in 2016 to hold students, which district officials said wouldn’t be ideal learning space for students.

The referendum would have meant a homeowner with a property valued at $100,000 would have seen annual taxes increase by about $181 until 2040, with annual taxes for homes valued at $124,000 increasing by $249.

Agricultural homesteads with a $100,000 and acreage valued at $6,000 would have seen larger increases. A 160-acre property’s taxes would have increased by $1,380 per year and a 320-acre property would likely have seen a $3,371 increase.