Basic facts about District 88 referendum

By Kremena Spengler

Staff Writer

Q. What will be on the ballot?

A. The Aug. 12 ballot question asks District 88 voters to authorize a general obligation school building bond of up to $46.9 million that would be used to buy land for, and the construction and equipping of, a new high school facility; the construction of additions to, and the remodeling of the Jefferson Elementary School facility, the Washington Elementary School facility and the current New Ulm High School facility; the completion of various deferred maintenance projects and security improvements to district facilities; and the construction, equipping, and installation of various athletic field improvements.

Q. How will this proposal impact my property taxes?

A. If voters approve the ballot question, the tax impact on a home valued at $100,000 would be approximately $57 per year, or $4.75 per month. To get information specific to your property, please select the tax calculator link found on the school webpage: www.newulm.k12.mn.us.

Q. When is the referendum and where do I vote?

A. The referendum is on Aug. 12, concurrent with the primary election. To find your polling location, visit pollfinder.sos.state.mn.us.

Q. Why is the school district considering a building project?

A. Officials says that, for several years, New Ulm Public Schools have faced significant and ongoing facility needs including:

appropriate classrooms for new educational programs (such as science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM), culinary arts, family and consumer science (FACS), and career orientation)

appropriate spaces for music and arts

athletic spaces (gymnastics, physical education, student and community gym space, proper fitness and weights space)

proper special education classrooms;

classroom space to meet enrollment needs

updated technology

safe and secure entrances

proper common and gathering space for students and community

storage space

locker space; and

safe pick-up and drop-off areas for car and bus traffic.

Q. What is really included in the plan?

A. The $46.9 million bond would fund the following:

construction of a new 140,000 square foot high school building, athletic fields, and associated features on a new site west of town;

upgrades at the existing high school to convert it into a grade 5-8 middle school;

upgrades at Jefferson Elementary for a grade 1-4 elementary school;

upgrades at Washington Elementary School to convert in to a Pre-K-Kindergarten/Community Education Center;

increased security entrances at all sites; and

revised bus loading/unloading areas at the Jefferson site.

In addition, the public should know that a private donor has committed $1 million toward a fine arts facility, should one be built.

Q. Where would a new high school be located, and what is the likelihood of, and status on, securing a site?

A. The new high school would be located on the west side of New Ulm, says Superintendent Jeff Bertrang.

“We have communicated and met with several property owners,” says Bertrang. “At least three tracts of land on the west side of New Ulm are feasible, and the owners are willing to work on options with the school.

Bertrang has worked with architects and civil engineers on the assessment of the properties to make a list of pros and cons.

As July 15, Bertrang had met with architects and representatives of I&S Civil Engineers to review the parcels of land, discuss road networks, utilities hookups, topography and orientation of the facilities for the properties. The engineers will prepare concept drawings to show how the parcels would look with the new school, parking, roads and athletic fields on them. Bertrang revisited the property options with the city manager, city planner and city engineers.

This is a horse-and-cart issue, to quote Bertrang. The school district does not want to do too much until it knows whether the bond will pass or fail.

Q: I heard the school owns land near the municipal airport. How about building there, instead of taking up farm land?

A: The school no longer has the land near the airport, after a land swap with the city, in which the district gained title to the parcel where the former school on State Street is located.

After the airport was upgraded, flight zone regulations made the land inappropriate for a school.

Q. When would the new school be open?

A. The new school is projected to open in the fall of 2016.

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