By Kristina Busch
The St. Louis Park School Board on June 26 unanimously approved the review and comment packet for the $100.9 million district bond referendum to be sent to the state Department of Education for comments. The board also approved the resolution calling for the election on Tuesday, Nov. 7.
Boardmember Nancy Gores made a motion to approve the packet as presented, with an amendment to the second ballot question, which refers to the bond referendum.
The first ballot question will ask district voters to renew the current revenue authorization of $2,079.99 per pupil, which is set to expire in 2018. If approved, the referendum revenue authorization would increase annually for 10 years.
The second ballot question will ask voters to approve a $100.9 million bond referendum, which would pay for renovations at Central Community Center, Cedar Manor Community Center, St. Louis Park Middle School and St. Louis Park High School.
The ballot also mentions that voting “yes” approves a property tax increase. The increase is projected to be about $15 a month for a home valued at $250,000.
The board members discussed at length the language of the question, in an effort to be clear about the upgrades that would occur at the district facilities.
The ballot question includes that the funds will allow the district to add air conditioning to Peter Hobart and Susan Lindgren elementary schools, modify early childhood classrooms at Central School, construct a centralized kitchen, provide a performing arts space at the middle school, build a fitness center and media center at the high school and more.
Gores said the ballot neglects to specifically mention that classrooms will be added to the middle school, as well, which makes the question misleading to citizens.
Boardmember Bruce Richardson also expressed a desire to include language that the funds would allow the completion of technology infrastructure, along with deferred maintenance and remodeling projects at the various school facilities.
“We’re trying to be as transparent as we can without being confusing,” said Gores.
Sandy Salin, director of business services, said she was hesitant about changes, because any alterations to the ballot would need to be sent back to the bond council for approval, and she was wary of the incoming deadline of July 6 for the packet to be sent to the state education department.
Sara Thompson, the district director of communications and community relations, suggested that the board approve the packet as it was, though with an amendment to make the mentioned changes.
Boardmember Karen Waters initially voted against the referendum proposal at the April 24 meeting. She said she felt the $100.9 million was too much money and that the amount would likely cover the cost of more “wants” than “needs.”
However, at the June 26 meeting, the packet was approved, with the amendment, with a vote of 7-0.
The changes will be sent to the bond council for approval. If the council disagrees with these changes, Gores proposed having a meeting before July 6 to discuss the packet.
After the packet is submitted, the education department will send its comments within 60 days in anticipation of the November election.