WORTINGTON — An additional $3 million will be committed by Independent School District 518 to its November special election, the Board of Education resolved Tuesday.
The additional $3 million will be committed to the first question on the Nov. 5 ballot, reducing the question for a two-grade 600-student capacity intermediate school to the sale of bonds up to $26.7 million. Prior to Tuesday’s meeting, the question would have asked voters to approve a bond up to $29.7 million.
The additional funds are available due to an anticipated increase to the district's fund balance over the last fiscal year. That's caused by less expenditures than budgeted and an increase in student enrollment.
Prior to Tuesday’s 6-1 vote, board members discussed whether to commit the funds to one question or divide it between the first and second questions — the difference of an additional grade and $7 million.
The majority said the passing an intermediate school, even if the smaller of the two options, is imperative.
“It’s $3 million no matter where you put it, and we need question one passed,” said board member Joel Lorenz, stressing the word "need."
“I think if you can help people there (on question one), they may be more entertained to help pass question two,” added board member Adam Blume.
Board Treasurer Linden Olson cast the lone no vote. As the language currently reads, the board doesn’t have to sell $29.7 million worth of bonds, he said. However, that gives it more leeway when it comes to getting the audit complete and possible construction cost fluctuation.
Board chairperson Brad Shaffer said while he understood the cushion leaving the ballot unchanged would provide, it may also give the public the ability to question how transparent the board is being with them.
“If construction costs go over, we’ll deal with that when the time comes,” Shaffer said. “I know that’s not a great plan, but I think the public would rather know exactly what they’re voting for.”
In other Tuesday business, the board quashed the idea of adopting a sense motion. As proposed, the sense motion would have been a formal declaration of the current board’s intent not to utilize its lease levy authority for major construction projects should the public pass a new intermediate school at the upcoming referendum.
Dudley said she’d be more supportive of the motion if she felt it would have a direct impact on passing the referendum. Instead, she said, the district risked making it more confusing for the public.
Lorenz didn’t like the idea of the board’s hands being tied should the referendum fail and alternative funding avenues become necessary.
“I don’t want to make any promises at this point,” he said.
Shaffer said that in serving his constituents, he’d look long and hard before using that authority again, but didn’t agree that a sense motion was appropriate.
Board members Steve Schnieder and Mike Harberts also didn’t agree with the sense motion. Olson said he thought it was a good idea, as it gives the public insight into the current board’s intentions.
In other Tuesday board action, the board:
Approved a $28,700 adjustment to its bus contract due to a lesser number of days transporting students as a result of last winter/spring’s inclement weather.
Approved an updated crisis management plan. The plan, which hadn’t been updated since it was created 12 years ago, is a comprehensive document intended for District 518 staff that includes emergency contacts and building-specific plans for a variety of crisis situations.
Heard an enrollment update from Superintendent John Landgaard. The district currently has 3,438 students enrolled, with fluctuations likely between now and mid-September. That count is approximately 100 students more than last year.
Approved a tax abatement request by Adam Johnson for the construction of a new home at 1298 North Crailsheim Road.