WORTHINGTON — Come this fall, Independent School District 518 will be asking district residents to participate in a bonding referendum election to determine if the district can bond for money to construct an intermediate school. The upcoming referendum election will contain three questions.

The first question on the referendum ballot will be to allow ISD 518 to bond for $29.7 million for a new intermediate school that would serve grades four and five. The ISD 518 school board has committed to contributing $2 million to the construction of this facility. This contribution brings the question one referendum amount to the $29.7 million figure that is on the ballot. If this question passes, a new facility will be constructed to house ISD 518 students in grades four and five.

The second question on the referendum ballot can only pass if the first question also passes. This second question will be to allow ISD 518 to bond for an additional $7 million to expand the intermediate school proposed in question one to serve an additional grade. This question, if passed along with question one, would allow ISD 518 to bond for a total of $36.7 million for a new intermediate school that would serve ISD 518 students in grades three, four, and five.

The third question on the referendum ballot is entirely independent of the first two questions. This third question will be to allow ISD 518 to bond for $14 million to refinance the district’s existing Series 2017A. If this question passes, the district will be able to refinance the existing Series 2017A and make that money eligible for the Ag2School credit. This third question also allocates money for ISD 518 to add a second story addition to Worthington High School through the $14 million that would be used to refinance.

The Ag2School tax credit is an important aspect of the third question on the upcoming referendum ballot. Utilizing the Ag2School tax credit shifts some costs of the referendum from local dollars to state dollars. The Minnesota State Legislature recently increased this tax credit for agricultural landowners in Minnesota to 50%. This credit is set to continue increasing until it reaches 70% in 2023. This development in legislature allows for a lower burden on agricultural landowners in our district. Instead of district residents, the state of Minnesota will take on a larger share of the proposed project.

The addition on the second story of Worthington High School will add seven classroom spaces. These will work to ease the pressure of the ever-expanding enrollment and space challenges faced by that facility, though it does not allow the district to work on the issues of cafeteria, restroom and lab space. This solution is one that members of the community have repeatedly called for ISD 518 to look into. While this addition does not address long-term space, safet, and security issues that loom on the horizon as growing enrollment project continue to be proven correct, it is a solution to some of the immediate challenges the high school facility is facing.

Nov. 5, 2019 will be a critical decision point for Independent School District 518’s future. Absentee and early voting begins on Friday, Sept. 20. On Nov. 5, the election will take place from 7 a.m. to 8 p..m. ISD 518 urges citizens to seek the information they desire to make informed choices on the referendum ballot’s three questions.

For more information, please utilize one of the various resources put forward by ISD 518 — such as the booth that will be at the Nobles County Fair Aug. 7-11, the ISD 518 social media pages that will be periodically sending out information about the upcoming referendum, or by reaching the ISD 518 District Office at 372-2172 or by email at admindistrict@isd518.net.

Parker Sandhurst is District 518's communications coordinator.