Column: District 518 voters get choices with ballot questions
By Linden Olson, District 518
WORTHINGTON — On Aug. 14, voters in Independent School District 518 will vote on two bond referendum questions for improvements to our local public school system. Each question addresses a different issue that has been discussed for several years extensively in our community.
Question #1 would authorize construction of a new intermediate school on the site just south of the middle school campus. The building would be large enough for 900 students in Grades 3 through 5, which means it could accept another 20 percent growth in enrollment compared to the number of students currently in these grades and meet the short-term (7–10 years) need for space in the district.
A new intermediate school would immediately address well-documented space needs in our other schools as well. By making grade adjustments at Prairie Elementary and the Middle School, the new school would also address overcrowding in those buildings.
Most importantly for district residents, the cost would be roughly half of the cost of the proposed high school, which voters rejected in February’s referendum. The additional tax impact of Question #1 would be $7.94 a month for the owner of a $125,000 home, much lower than the failed high school plan.
Question #2 addresses a different issue — the deteriorating condition of Trojan Field and its track, bleachers, press box and other parts of our main athletic complex. Trojan field is utilized for over 40 events each fall and presently fails to meet ADA compliance standards along with having safety concerns for players. The school board considered whether to use our current fund balance — the district’s savings account – for these improvements. However, spending down our reserves could be financially risky for the district, as the current strong economy may not continue forever.
The board’s decision was to give voters an option to bond for the athletic facilities improvements. At a cost of an additional $0.90 per month for the owner of a $125,000 home, bonding seems a cost-effective way of improving the facility while protecting the district’s budget reserve. However, Question #2 gives local residents the choice to decide whether they agree that we should bond for the athletic facility’s needed improvements.
For several years, we have been searching for the right plan to address our space needs. Based on projections and new housing starts our school district will keep adding more students. We hope local residents review and strongly consider this new plan.
Whatever you decide, please get out and vote Aug. 14. If you have additional questions, please check out the referendum web site at www.worthingtonforward.com or contact Superintendent John Landgaard.
Linden Olson is a member of the District 518 Board of Education.