Our Opinion: It's time to vote
On Tuesday, April 10, polls will open and voters will decide the fate of a bond referendum to fund the Brainerd Public Schools comprehensive facilities plan.
Voters will be asked three questions on the special election ballot:
• Question 1 concerns investing in the elementary school buildings and Early Childhood Family Education program, not to exceed an estimated $68.4 million.
• Question 2 concerns investing in the secondary buildings and alternative education facilities, not to exceed a total of an estimated $69.4 million.
• Question 3 concerns investing in an enhanced performing arts center, for a total cost of $8 million.
The third question is contingent on the second question passing; meaning if Question 2 fails, so does the third.
If all three questions are approved, residents will be looking at new taxes on $145.8 million of the overall $205 million price tag of the facilities plan. It's a staggering number, we know, but district officials state the financial impact on a median valued home will be $7 a month.
It's what that bonding will do for our schools that's most important.
For us, that's been the primary impetus behind the comprehensive facilities plan and referendum—updating aging schools that are long overdue for improvements, enhancements and better safety features. We not only owe it to the children who attend these schools, but to ourselves as owners of these buildings.
The school district has to be commended for making this process as transparent as it has. For the past two years it has held numerous listening and information sessions. District officials have answered questions posed to them, heard the concerns and have listened. Brainerd School District residents should appreciate that. Not all have, however.
Criticism has been raised regarding the referendum in the past few months, specifically the fate of Lincoln Education Center, which in the plan is to be razed for parking for the high school. It seems a bit disingenuous to jump on that issue now, so late in the process. It should have been brought up two years ago, when the district released its plans and started to hold numerous meetings about them with the public. The Dispatch had a story on May 24, 2016, that reported Lincoln would be torn down as part of the proposed high school expansion.
Not knowing is no longer an excuse.
Now it's up to voters to decide, and regardless of how you choose to vote there shouldn't be any reason for not having enough information about the referendum. In addition to scores of informational meetings and listening sessions hosted by the Brainerd School District, the Brainerd Dispatch has been reporting on the process of the comprehensive facilities plan for two years.
Also, the district itself has a trove of information available at Blueprint181.org regarding the plan and its potential financial impact for district residents. You can even plug in your home or business estimated market value (tax statements arrived in the mail last weekend where you'll find your property's valuation) to find your tax impact should all three questions pass. It takes less than 3 seconds to do this.
However you vote, make sure it's an informed vote and a vote for the right reasons.