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Our Opinion: Voting is over, but the work is not

Almost 10,000 voters had their say Tuesday, and a majority like what Brainerd Public Schools has in mind for district buildings.

All three bond referendum questions on the ballot were approved. The result—$145.7 million in new taxes to go toward $205 million in renovation and new construction for school district buildings.

Approval of the three ballot questions means improvements to all elementary and secondary school buildings, a new Baxter Elementary School, demolition of Lincoln Education Center and the addition of a 1,200-seat performing arts center at the high school. Needs for each individual building among the 12 facilities in the district will be addressed — including demolition, construction, renovation and long-term maintenance costs.

It's a historic result in that most of us will probably never see another such referendum in our lifetime.

The fact that all three questions posed to voters were approved was encouraging. To us it signifies several things—people want their schools to be safe, to prosper and to set a standard of what a school district can be when the community rallies around it. The improvements outlined in the district's facilities plan were certainly needed and a majority of district residents were willing to pay more in taxes for them.

That all three questions passed was initially surprising, but with hindsight made sense because the voters were well informed on the referendum regardless of whether they agreed with it. District residents had ample opportunity to learn about the plans and voice their opinions about them through myriad listening sessions, public information meetings and school board sessions held by the district the last couple years. School district officials certainly did their due diligence, and, as we've said before, they are to be commended for that Herculean effort.

That hard work paid off—literally—for the school district, but they're not done, not by a long shot, and we believe school officials realize that. The residents of the school district have placed a lot of faith in school officials to do the job right and continue to keep us informed along the way. We believe they will continue to be good stewards of the money granted by voters.

A healthy, thriving school district can mean a lot to a community. It's one of the first things people look at when considering a move to an area. It helps promote the area and helps businesses attract new employees. The performing arts center should draw more people to downtown Brainerd, which currently is a experiencing renaissance.

Most importantly, the passing of the referendum means we take the security and needed upgrades to our schools seriously. This is our district and these are our buildings—we, as taxpayers, own them. It's a good day when we take the responsibility to invest in their future.

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