WORTHINGTON — Independent School District 518’s six-year streak of failed building referendums came to an end Tuesday.
Worthington school district residents approved all three of the district’s referendum questions. Passage of all three questions means the district gave the green light for the district to sell up to $33.7 million in general obligation bonds to construct a new intermediate school designed to educate 900 third-, fourth- and fifth-grade students along North Crailsheim Road. The district is committing $5 million from its general fund to account for the estimated $38.7 million project.
Occupancy is tentatively slated for fall 2022.
Voters also approved the district’s proposal to refinance $14 million in debt so that ag property becomes eligible for the Ag2Schools tax credit, which will increase to 70% by 2023.
The unofficial results are as follows:
$26.7 million intermediate: 1,780 YES to 1,644 NO
$33.7 million intermediate: 1,719 YES to 1,700 NO
Refinance $14 million to become eligible for tax credit: 1,760 YES 1,662 NO
Superintendent John Landgaard said the district is “thrilled” to have the questions passed that will allow the needs of the students and staff of the district to be met.
“Supporting our kids is important, so we’re appreciative of the voters helping make this happen this time,” Landgaard said.
School board chairperson Brad Shaffer called Tuesday night a “great night for the district.”
“I’m excited we can now work to start fixing the (overcrowding) problem instead of just talking about it,” Shaffer said, expressing gratitude to members of the district’s communities who voted and provided input throughout the process. “It’s a nice feeling to be able to move forward, (rather) than stay bogged down in the same problem.”
Voter turnout was just above 50% of the number of registered District 518 voters. There are 6,578 total registered voters residing in District 518.
According to the Nobles County Auditor-Treasurer’s Office, 17% of the district’s total registered voters had cast an absentee ballot as of late Tuesday morning.
Absentee turnout for Tuesday’s special election was second to the district’s $68.5 million proposal it brought to voters in February 2018, in which 1,474 absentee ballots were cast. (Absentee ballots cast for the August 2018 election were not considered in the comparison, as it included a primary election).
Shaffer said he hopes Tuesday’s results are a step in a positive direction for the community, county and region.
“Unfortunately, any time you have an issue like this that people feel passionate about there’s going to be some damage done in the community,” Shaffer said. “We need to begin repairing that damage and make sure we provide for the children of our community, the way our parents and grandparents did for us.”
A historic look at District 518's previous special election results:
November 2016 ($79 million) — 1,957 YES; 3,664 NO
February 2018 ($68.5 million) — 1,506 YES; 2,198 NO
August 2018 ($35 million) — 1,506 YES; 1,776 NO
February 2019 ($32 million) — 1,366 YES; 1,383 NO