Landgaard: Law allows for new facility to proceed without residents’ vote
WORTHINGTON -- Worthington District 518 school board members recently approved the construction of a $10.5 million facility intended for use by Alternative Learning Center students and the Worthington gymnastics program.
WORTHINGTON - Worthington District 518 school board members recently approved the construction of a $10.5 million facility intended for use by Alternative Learning Center students and the Worthington gymnastics program.
Although residents will see a tax increase as a result of the project, the board is backed by laws and regulations of the Minnesota Department of Education (MDE) to move forward with the project without residents’ approval, District 518 Superintendent John Landgaard said Monday.
Landgaard said the MDE allows the district to approve construction of educational spaces without a referendum only when projects don’t exceed a lease levy of $212 per pupil.
The district will contribute $4.2 million to pay for the gymnastics portion of the building. The ALC portion, meanwhile, will be financed by Certificates of Participation (CPOs).
The district will levy a bond of $6,575,000, which will have an annual tax impact of $37.63 for a residential homestead valued at $175,000. Agricultural homesteads of 160 acres will have an annual $167.36 tax increase.
“We have enough authority available to help cover the cost of construction for this educational facility.” Landgaard said.
Landgaard explained the district could either use operational surplus or use a lease levy to repay the CPO bonds. He noted that the lease levy method is meant to finance educational spaces that the district will own.
He added that the district can use a lease levy to support other program spaces that are not owned by the district. This is why the district has chosen to cover the cost of the gymnastics portion of the project with assigned funds, he said.
Landgaard said this is not the first time the board has utilized CPOs to fund building projects. Additions made to the Worthington Middle School and high school in 2010 were paid for through CPOs, meaning the board didn’t need voter approval to move forward with the project.
“It's not like the board is trying to go around voters,” Landgaard said. “it’s not what they are trying to do, but there are priorities in space needs that need to happen. In my view, they (school board members) are elected to be leaders of the district and to provide the best education for kids. ... We have the funds to do it, so this is an opportunity for them to improve the facilities.”
Landgaard said that ALC Principal Nate Hanson and other ALC staff - as well as Joni Reitmeier, the district’s gymnastics head coach - will meet with Wold Architects to discuss the needs of each program.
Landgaard estimates that construction of the facility will start this spring.