Meeting student needs

Published 7:37 pm Friday, October 29, 2021

BP district looking to expand opportunities for burgeoning school enrollment

A referendum to meet growing enrollment, increased educational opportunities and building improvements will go before voters in the Blooming Prairie School District on Tuesday.

Before the voters are two questions: Authorizing the district to issue school building bonds not exceeding $27,590,000 and $6,400,000 to pay for high school and elementary facility additions and improvements, a performing arts addition, as well as additional gymnasium and expanded fitness spaces.

Should the referendum pass then six classrooms at the high school would be added while at the same time the school’s Career and Technology Education (CTE), music and art spaces would all be expanded.

This would also include a 450-seat performing arts center and support spaces.

At the elementary school, classrooms would be repurposed and expanded.

“We’ve been looking at this for several years,” said Blooming Prairie Superintendent Chris Staloch. “This is my third year as superintendent and we’ve been looking at this each year.”

Under the proposal, homeowners with household incomes under $116,180 and renters with a household income under $623,960 would be eligible for a property tax refund up to 80% of the tax increase each year.

With the property tax refund on the table a home valued at around $250,000, for example, with an annual household income of $100,000 would see a net impact of $111 a year, breaking down to an increase of $9 a month.

State funding of the Ag2School tax credit would increase from 60% in 2022 to 70% in 2023 and beyond.

An added benefit is that 38% of the final price tag for the project will be paid for by the State of Minnesota through ag credit.

In recent years, the Blooming Prairie School District has seen an increase in enrollment, pushing the maximum capacity of current facilities. The district has experienced a 4% annual enrollment increase in the last five years, including during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“I think it’s a combination of things,” Staloch said when talking about the rise. “I think people are looking to locate in Blooming Prairie. Our school system is a good school system. Homes that come up for sale in Blooming Prairie … we have some young families to purchase those homes.”

Blooming Prairie administration has also come to see the importance of offering CTE education, making the need to expand current facilities at the school important in offering students options to go into the trades after graduating.

“Industrial tech is the main area looking to add some programming,” Staloch said. “We’re seeing an increase of interest in that area. We’ve made some connections with Riverland and we went down and toured their facilities in Albert Lea to get some ideas.”

“There are a lot of opportunities to go into the trades and we want to make sure our kids have those opportunities,” he added.

If the referendum passes then construction would begin in the summer of 2022 with all phases of construction slated to be completed by the summer of 2024.

“We really worked hard to really look at our needs,” Staloch said. “We’ve really tried to make sure we’ve done our homework and understand community needs.”

So far, Staloch is hearing a lot of positive feedback from the community.

“I‘m hearing a lot of positives,” he said. “People are asking good, quality questions. We’re hearing a lot of positive questions.”

For more information, visit www.blossoms.k12.mn.us/page/4485.

Early voting is open through Nov. 1, 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. at the Blooming Prairie District Office. Election day voting is 4-8 p.m. at the Blooming Prairie City Council Chambers, located at the City Center (138 Hwy. Avenue South).

Hayfield votes to increase operating levy

Next door, in the Hayfield Public School District, voters will head to the polls to weigh in on an operating levy referendum that would increase its education revenue to $562.26 per pupil.

The referendum would replace its existing referendum revenue authorization of $551.78 per pupil, which is  scheduled to expire after taxes payable in 2021. Initially, the current levy was slated to run out last year, but because of the COVID-19 pandemic it was pushed back to this year.

Passing the referendum would result in an increase in property taxes on residential and non-residential properties. For example, a property with an estimated market value of $125,000 would see an estimated increase of $3 in their property taxes.

According to Superintendent Gregg Slaathaug, the vote isn’t out of the ordinary for a lot of districts in the state.

“We believe we have been fiscally responsible for numerous years, we are asking for the least amount of money to efficiently run,” Slaathaug said.

Money raised goes to day-to-day operations at the school including operating capital and salaries.

Elsewhere

• In the Lyle Public School District, voters will vote to fill a vacant seat on the school board.

• Kingsland Public School District voters will be voting to fill a vacant school board seat.