ISD 181 Viewpoint: April 10 Special Election Information
This spring, voters will have an opportunity to decide whether to move forward with the Brainerd Public Schools Board of Education Blueprint 181 plan to address health, safety and educational adequacy needs in all our school buildings. The plan will be presented to voters in three ballot questions in a bond referendum. Early voting begins Feb. 23 and the referendum date is April 10.
This plan makes improvements and repairs that are needed to prepare us for the next 25 plus years of educating learners of all ages in the Brainerd lakes area. We are fortunate to have great teachers, engaged parents and a supportive community. Nonetheless, our buildings are getting older and we need to reinvest in these buildings to support classroom education and to protect the health and safety of all who enter our school buildings.
Part of this plan will be funded by existing capital budgets, levies, and state aid for long-term maintenance. However, to complete the plan we need local voters to approve the use of building bonds to make these investments over the next four years, rather than improving the buildings in a piecemeal and more expensive way.
The first question asks voters whether they approve renovation and expansion at Garfield, Harrison, Lowell, Nisswa, and Riverside Elementary Schools and making necessary improvements at WESB so that it can continue to serve as an early childhood education site; as well as building a new elementary school to replace the current Baxter Elementary and repurposing that existing Baxter school building as an early childhood education site. If residents approve this ballot question, taxes on the median value home in our school district will increase by $3 per month.
The second question addresses safety and security needs at Forestview Middle School and extensive expansion and renovation at Brainerd High School, to bring all classes for grades 9-12 under one roof on the north campus and converting the south campus building to house several specialized programs currently housed at various school locations. If Question 2 is approved, the increase in taxes for the median value home will be $3 per month.
The third question asks voters whether to fund an enhanced performing arts center on the Brainerd High School North Campus. The performing arts center will not be built unless Question 2 is also approved. The impact on the median value home will be $1 per month, if Question 3 is approved.
In conversations over the past few weeks, I've been asked why the bond referendum date is set for April. By law, school bond referendums can only take place on five days within the year: the second Tuesday of February, April, May or August, or November's general election day.
An April election addresses two important concerns. Since some residents spend part of the winter in warmer places, an April election gives them time to get back to vote or to request a mailed absentee ballot. At the same time, April is early enough to allow us to complete engineering, design and permitting during 2018, potentially starting some construction projects later this year and using the full 2019 construction season. Holding the election in August or November could mean costly delays in the project.
I want to thank everyone who took time out of their busy schedules to participate so far in all or part of our comprehensive four year school facilities planning process. Your support for high-quality education makes the Brainerd community stronger. To find out more about the plan and how to be involved, visit blueprint181.org.
Nelson is chair of the Brainerd Public Schools Board of Education