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District voters agree to purchase land, but building will have to wait

April 28, 2008

By Ryan Gueningsman
Managing Editor

A high voter turnout at the polls Tuesday yielded the passage of question one of the two-question ballot for the Delano School District.

Question one, which asked voters for funds to acquire land for a grades 4-6 building, passed with 1,782 in favor of, and 1,304 against.

Question two, which asked voters for funds to construct the grades 4-6 building, failed with 1,694 voting against it, and 1,388 voting in favor of it.

Superintendent Dr. John Sweet said the voter turnout at the election Tuesday was higher than last November. He said there was a 46.5 percent voter turnout at this election, compared to about a 41 percent voter turnout last fall.

“There was a good effort by the (Vote Yes) committee to encourage the voter turnout,” Sweet said. “There were a lot of efforts made to inform people about the election.”

Sweet said with the economy being the way it is, people might be more inclined to go vote for or against something.

He said question one, which asked for the land purchase, wasn’t as high of a tax increase.

“When the economy is like it is, and the main highway through town is all messed up, it says a lot that you can get something done,” Sweet said. “People don’t care to ever vote for a tax increase, but with the grades 4 through 6 building, it was closer in November than it was now.”

Moving forward

Sweet said the school district is tentatively planning on the sale of bonds for the land June 9, and said the district will have proceeds from that about a month later.

“About the 10th of July, we anticipate closing on properties,” Sweet said.

The school district is purchasing three pieces of property from adjoining landowners of the existing school campus. He said the property owners are relieved the land acquisition question passed.

“They finally know what their future is,” Sweet said. Being the second question on the ballot did not pass, Sweet said what will happen to the land once the school district assumes ownership is to be determined.

He said if question two would have passed and the district would be building there in the near future, the existing structures would be put up for sale with the intent to have them moved from the site.

Since the question did not pass, Sweet speculated the school board may still have the structures removed from site, or leave them there and consider renting them.

Keeping the school as one campus is something seen as a priority for the school board.

“We spend less than the state average cost per student, and that’s partly attributed to students on one campus,” Sweet said, adding it helps with bussing, sharing of staff and equipment, and that it helps with efficiencies of operation.

“The Minnesota Department of Education that approves these plans strongly advises when you have property adjacent to your school, to try to get it – they advise keeping things together, too,” Sweet said.

A question asking voters for funds to construct a proposed building could hit the ballot again this fall, but Sweet said he is unsure what course of action the board will take.

He said the board will canvass the election results at its next regular meeting tonight (Monday), and said the board may talk about future direction at that point.

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