WORTHINGTON - Three questions are destined for a Nov. 5 Independent School District 518 referendum.

After lengthy discussion about various projects in the works during Tuesday’s regular District 518 Board of Education meeting, the board voted to present these questions to the public:

  1. A grades 4-5, 600-student-capacity intermediate school for a bond of $29.7 million. This question was approved unanimously.
  2. A grades 3-5, 900 student-capacity-intermediate school for a bond of $36.7 million.
  3. Converting approximately $13 million in lease levy to general obligation bond.

As presented during Tuesday’s board meeting, question two would be contingent on question one passing. Both questions one and two would include an approximate $2 million funding commitment from the district’s fund balance.

The third question concerns the sum of the lease levy used to construct the learning center/gymnastics facility and the high school addition. The board committed its remaining $2.9 million authority to the estimated $4 million high school addition project during Tuesday’s meeting.

The third question is independent of the first two and was proposed so that eligible property would qualify for the Ag2Schools tax credit.

While the board’s vote to present the third question independent of the other two was unanimous, board member Joel Lorenz said he didn’t favor that independence. That wouldn’t give district residents the incentive to vote for either intermediate proposal, which is the district’s ultimate goal, he said.

“Or it might make them more positive to vote yes for a school,” board member Adam Blume countered. “For us helping them one way, they might help us in another.”   

By a split 4-3 vote, the board also approved committing $12.5 million of its fund balance toward a new community education facility that is being planned as part of the W.E.L.L. (Welcome, Education, Library, Livability) collaborative project with the city of Worthington and Nobles County.

In explaining his motion, board clerk Steve Schnieder said the board can still seek bonding options from the county or state, but he wanted to show the school board is committed.

“I want to make a statement that we’re moving ahead with this project and are committed to doing it,” Schnieder said.

Board chair Brad Shaffer, vice chair Lori Dudley and Lorenz also supported the motion.

Board member Mike Harberts, who voted against the motion, said a commitment could be made to the project by putting it on a bond referendum. Blume also voted against the motion, questioning how favorably voters would react to an intermediate school question if the board committed that much funding to a community ed facility.

Board treasurer Linden Olson said he likes the W.E.L.L. project, but said the district doesn’t need to commit that much at this point to keep the project moving forward. Olson added that he wanted to have a better idea what the board’s plan was regarding the referendum and other projects before committing those funds to community ed.

The community education motion was made before the referendum questions were decided Tuesday evening.

The idea of Nobles County possibly bonding for a portion of the school’s community ed section of the W.E.L.L. facility was also mentioned. Landgaard reported that with the county’s Prairie Justice Center bonds soon expiring, the county may be in a position to bond for it under a lease agreement with the school district.

“They would own the building until we payed off our portion of the debt,” said Landgaard, recommending the district have the county bond no more than $6 million if that’s the route the board wanted to go. “Whether the county bonds for it or not, you’re going to end up paying for it.”

No decision was made during Tuesday’s meeting.

In other school board business, the board:

  • Recognized 16 tenured staff members: Brienna Bahl, Prairie Elementary; Perla

Banegas, WHS; Justin Breske, WMS; Anne Bruns, Prairie; Heidi Bursch, Prairie; Maggie Gerdes, Prairie; Lisa Harms, WHS; Kristina Heggeseth, WHS; Sara Koepsell, Prairie; Gerald Oehler, Teaching and Learning; Zachary Paulsen, WMS; Molly Scheidt, Prairie; Ryan Sedler, WHS; Sonja Stark, WHS; Kelli Stenzel, Prairie; Kendall Vortherms, Prairie.

  • Unanimously approved resurfacing the tennis courts for $35,500. The project is anticipated to be completed over the summer.
  • Unanimously approved a resolution related to the expulsion of an unidentified student.
  • Unanimously approved a building security system bid from Parallel Technologies for $413,419.74 to update building security systems.
  • Unanimously approved the middle school conferences proposal to eliminate second quarter conferences and elongate the first and third quarter conferences.
  • Approved the ability to accept credit card payments at a $3 per transaction flat fee. Olson, who had the lone no vote, said the $3 fee was high and requested further research. According to Schnieder, when the operations committee considered it last week, it learned the district could not set a percentage-per-transaction fee.
  • Approved salary and benefit increases over a two-year period for the following positions:

community education director, 7.24%; community education licensed coordinators, 7.43%; technology director, 7.11%; community education non-licensed coordinator, 8.53%; NCIC program aides, 8.08%; NCIC youth development leaders, 9.57%; NCIC program manager, 7.29%; NCIC achievement and integration coordinator, 6.47%; district translators, 6.75%; communication coordinator, 6.39%.  

  • Scheduled a 7:30 a.m. May 29 special meeting at the district administration office to address student disciplinary issues.