WORTHINGTON — For seven years, the Independent School District 518 school board has been searching for the right plan to expand classroom space for our growing number of students. In February 2019, the referendum failed by only 17 votes. The school board took this as proof that the community is ready to support the right plan. We also have continued to listen to the advice and feedback we have heard from you.

First, we heard that we should keep looking for ways to reduce the cost of the new classroom space, even if it would save a few million dollars. The school board agreed to use $5 million from the existing budget reserve to help lower the tax impact of Question 1, which proposes building a new intermediate school for grades 4 and 5. Question 2 also provides voters with the option to potentially save money by constructing this as a three-grade school instead of a two-grade school. When compared to adding to the new school in the future as enrollment continues to grow as projected, this saves money as construction costs only continue to rise.

We also heard that we should reduce the tax impact on agricultural land. State law governs how local governments tax property, so the school board cannot provide special relief to any group of local property owners. However, the state does offer the Ag2School credit for some types of local levies.

In Question 3, the school board is proposing to shift our current lease levy, which is not eligible for the Ag2School credit, to a voter-approved levy that would make it eligible for this credit. By doing this, we will significantly reduce the tax impact of the third ballot question for agricultural land while minimizing any shift in taxes to other property owners. By 2023, the current legislation around the Ag2School credit shows that the State of Minnesota will pay 70% of the annual tax impact of bond referendums for owners of farmland while creating no additional tax impact for other property owners. By supporting farm landowners and helping the overall economy, this election request maximizes the efficiency of our levy while minimizing any tax impact to all our taxpayers.

If all three referendum ballot questions pass, the monthly tax increase will be $7.19 per month for the owner of a $125,000 valuation home. We encourage you to utilize the tax calculator on the district website (www.isd518.net) to get a more specific estimate of the potential impact. Also, a postcard will be mailed to property owners with the estimated impact of the referendum. You should receive a postcard for each property in District 518 that you own.

The school board has proposed a plan that reflects the community’s feedback. We believe this plan offers excellent value for taxpayers. Building an intermediate school housing two grades with approval of Question 1 and three grades with approval of Questions 1 and 2 will reduce overcrowding in every other school in the district. The approval of Question 3 allows for relief of a large portion of the tax burden put on agricultural landowners.

It is up to local voters to decide the future of this plan. Early voting is available weekdays at the Nobles County Auditor/Treasurer’s Office. Extended voting will be on Saturday, Nov. 2 from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. at the Nobles County Government Center. Lakeside Church, located at 1000 Linda Lane in Worthington, is the designated polling place on Election Day, Nov. 5.

If you have any questions, please email me at John.Landgaard@isd518.net or call me at 372-2172.

John Landgaard is District 518's superintendent.