Referendum News & Events

Events

Public Referendum Information Meeting

Monday, December 11, 6:00 - 8:00 p.m.

Worthington High School Cafeteria

Presentation and Open House

This is a come and go event.

Public Referendum Information Meeting

Tuesday, January 23,   6:00 - 8:00 p.m.

Worthington High School Cafeteria

Presentation and Open House

This is a come and go event.

Public Building Tours 

Wednesday, January 10, 7:30 a.m. - 3:30 p.m.  

Tours will be conducted every hour.
 

Thursday, January 11, 7:30 a.m. - 3:30 p.m.   

Tours will be conducted every hour.

News

Seek the facts, make an informed decision about school referendum – November 27, 2017

40% Ag Bond Credit Starts in 2018 – November 25, 2017

Worthington schools are still full; different solution is proposed – October 17, 2017

Worthington school board calls for February referendum – October 17, 2017

Daily Globe Letter to the Editor: Ag2School a Win for Farmers, Rural Communities



Seek the facts, make an informed decision about school referendum

Dear Worthington Area Families:

Many of you are aware of the space issues we face in Worthington Public Schools. Parents who stop by during the day to pick up students or attend a student program can see that every nook and cranny is filled, especially at Prairie Elementary.

Worthington Schools will hold a one-question referendum on February 13, 2018. We have a good problem; schools at every level are full and enrollment increases continue to beat projections. However, student learning can suffer from overcrowding.

We sought community input to develop the new referendum proposal. Community members helped evaluate options that would address the problem. We listened. The new proposal is different than the 2016 referendum. It is a cost-effective solution and does not include a stadium or athletic fields. Our proposed solution would alleviate overcrowding at every grade level in each school by building a new high school and reconfiguring the grades within existing buildings.

The theme for this year’s referendum says it all, Room to Learn, Room to Grow. We are using and over-using spaces that weren’t designed for students or for the number of students in them. The good news is that students are still learning – our staff does an amazing job at finding solutions to make do. But we can do better if we have more space. We’ve been adding four classrooms of students each year for a decade, and that is anticipated to continue. This referendum proposal would provide enough space to fit the enrollment increases that are coming.

As an organization, we model the behavior we seek by being honest and transparent, and living up to the public’s need for trust. We stand ready to answer your questions through every step of this process prior to Election Day.

In return, we need your commitment to study the facts that the district provides regarding the referendum. We learned through our survey that we didn’t provide enough information to you in the last election. We’ll do better this year. We also know that some advocacy groups shared information that was confusing or misleading. The school district is obligated by law to send you the facts of the referendum and will do so.

Advocacy groups have free speech rights allowing them to say anything. Some districts have been bombarded with last-minute information from “Vote No” groups. In many cases, these groups hire someone who has no investment in our communities and no investment in our students’ academic success to sabotage a referendum and to divide a community.

You have our pledge that we will provide you with ongoing factual information through various mailings, e-mail newsletters and on the district website (www.isd518.net). School district officials are also personally willing to come to your home/neighborhood to speak with you and your neighbors. Then, you must decide how to vote based on the facts.

These schools are your schools. Please stay informed. The future of our schools and the children of the communities we serve depends on you and your neighbors.

Sincerely,

The Worthington District 518 School Board

Victoria Blanchette, Lori Dudley, Joel Lorenz, Linden Olson, Scott Rosenberg, Steve Schnieder, Brad Shaffer


40% Ag Bond Credit Starts in 2018
The 40 percent agricultural bond credit, known as Ag2School will take effect with property taxes certified in December of 2017 and payable in calendar year 2018. Owners of farmland will see the reduction in the upper right hand corner of their Truth-in-Taxation notices this month.

The Ag2School credit applies to all current and future bond referendums, as reported by Minnesota Representative Paul Anderson in a report from the Council of State Governments. “If a landowner’s levy for school building referendum was $25 per acre, for example, the state would provide him or her with a credit of $10 per acre (40 percent).”

In the Worthington School District Ag2School will reduce 2018 property taxes by ($87.03) per $500,000 value of agriculture and privately managed forestland. This will total an estimated $324,590 of tax relief for landowners with land in the Worthington School District.

In 2018 Ag2School will deliver on average $129 in property tax relief per $500,000 of agriculture land value, privately managed forestland across Greater Minnesota, and help improve farmers’ economic outlook.

“This Ag2school legislation provides landowners tax relief not only on new bond referendums, but existing referendum and creates a more equitable tax structure that allows for landowners to consider presented construction bond referendums” stated Joel Lorenz, school board member and landowner.

This agricultural bond credit passed into law in June and continues to have a broad base of bipartisan support. It is permanent law, existing into perpetuity, as stated in the appropriations portion Subdivision 5 of the statute; “An amount sufficient to make the payments required by this section is annually appropriated from the general fund to the commissioner of education.” It would take an act of both bodies of the legislature and a signature by the Governor to amend or repeal the Ag2School credit program.

“Repealing or reducing the program would mean a vote for raising taxes on the backs of rural Minnesota farmers and harming equity in school funding for kids and parents,” said Sam Walseth, Director of Legislative Affairs for MREA. “Not only is this extremely unlikely, but the strong coalition of like-minded rural interests (MREA, farm groups and others) would link arms to defeat any attempt to renege on the 40 percent credit to landowners for school facilities for rural children’s education.”

 Many schools in rural Minnesota have pressing facility needs that are necessary to provide high quality educational services in their communities. Ag2School will also create a healthier environment for communities to solve their school facility needs with a reduced financial impact to our farmers.

The estimated impact of the proposed bond referendum for taxpayers would be $147.86 per year or $12.32 per month on an average valued home of $115,000 in District 518. On a commercial/industrial property valued at $250,000, it would be $713.28 per year or $59.44 per month. On an agriculture homestead with a home valuation of $175,000 and assumes 160 acres the estimated tax would be $818.00 per year or $68.17 per month after the Ag2school credit and on a non-homestead agriculture property with a valuation of $7,000 per acre the estimated tax would be $7.05 per acre after the Ag2school credit. A tax calculator will be available for residents to check in early December that will provide a more accurate estimate of the tax impact. We would encourage you to consider checking this out once it is available on the School District web site @ www.isd518.net where you will be able to find all the information related to the bond referendum.


Worthington schools are still full; different solution is proposed

By Lori Dudley

As you may have read, the Worthington School Board will again ask voters to consider a referendum to address overcrowding in our schools. The vote will be on February 13 next year. We are so thankful for the many hours of study put into this new proposal by many community members, as well as school district staff. My colleagues on the board and I hope you will very carefully consider the facts around this proposal.

Enrollment continues to grow

Worthington Public Schools continues to have an enrollment problem, and that is a good problem to have. Our enrollment continues to grow according to our projections. While many school districts in greater Minnesota are cutting programs for students because of declining enrollment, we’re able to maintain and offer more programming to meet the challenges of educating all our learners as our enrollment climbs.

As of Oct. 1, our enrollment was 3,209. In 2015, we hired an enrollment specialist to do a demographic enrollment report. That report projected enrollment for 2017-2018 of 3,180 to 3,218.

I think many of our community members agree that we have a significant overcrowding problem in our schools from pre-K through twelfth grade that continues to grow and must be addressed soon.

Community leads the way

Enrollment growth hasn’t happened overnight. We’ve seen increases each of the last 10 years as we’ve grown by about 1,100 students – that’s the equivalent of 44 classrooms! We saw we were outgrowing our space and proposed solutions in 2013 (intermediate school with additions) and 2016 (new High School with athletic fields) that were not approved by voters. This winter and spring we turned to you, members of our community, for your input on how to address this challenge. We commissioned a survey in February 2017, to learn more about your objections to the 2016 proposal. We held focus group meetings and other public meetings (including approximately 300 community members who attended 9 meetings) to solicit community input on what the next proposal would be. Community members asked to have numerous options evaluated. We asked our architects, Wold Architects and Engineers, a highly respected school architectural firm, to provide us with cost estimates on every imaginable, realistic alternative, and then explored the benefits of each.

The result is a different proposal than in 2016. This request is for a project that costs $10 million less. It does not include athletic fields and other expenses that the community objected to. It does include a new high school and the same reconfiguration of schools that was part of last year’s plan. The school board chose, with community guidance, the most cost-effective approach for the long-term. In addition, this solution offers significant benefits to students by reorganizing current grade configurations to better align with curricular goals across the district and creating flexible spaces for personalized learning and a wider variety of instructional delivery, among other benefits. Most importantly, it eliminates overcrowding at every level in every grade.

Ag property tax credit

For years a major hurdle for school districts in agricultural areas has been the cost of school building levies to Ag landowners. In 2017, the Minnesota Legislature approved the School Building Bond Agricultural Credit. The credit reduces property taxes paid by Ag landowners on existing and new school building levies by 40 percent. In District 518, this means the tax on Agriculture land for existing bonds (1999 Prairie Elementary/High School and the 2010 High School/Middle School) will receive a 40 percent reduction. We lobbied the legislature for this change, and are extremely happy this tax relief became law.

More information is coming

After the last referendum we learned that some residents didn’t feel they had enough information to make an informed decision. The school district does not have a staff person dedicated to communications. The public relations position was eliminated in 2002 due to budget cuts at that time and never rehired creating a significant savings over 15 years. Therefore, we have hired Jeff Dehler, a school communications specialist, to help us communicate this complicated issue. We’re currently spending less than 3 cents of every dollar on administrative costs, and this decision continues to save the district money by not hiring a full-time permanent position.

We will be sending direct mail to residents, making dozens of presentations to community groups, and communicating through our website, email, and social media so voters have all the factual information they need to make an informed decision by Election Day.

If you have questions, please contact the School Board or District Administration and I would like to thank you for taking the time to read this article.

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Lori Dudley is chair of the Worthington School Board


Worthington school board calls for February referendum

New proposal would alleviate overcrowding in schools

Oct. 17, 2017 – The Worthington School Board approved a resolution Tuesday, Oct. 17 to place one referendum question on a Feb. 13, 2018 ballot. The $68.5 million referendum would address overcrowding in schools by building a new high school.

“This proposal is different than what was proposed in 2016,” said Lori Dudley, school board chair. “We engaged with community members through a public opinion survey, focus groups and public meetings. Our community helped us choose this plan because it was the most cost-effective option to meet the needs of our students.”

The request is for $10 million less than the 2016 proposal, and athletic fields and other expenses were eliminated. The same reconfiguration of schools would take place, with grades Pre-K-2 (and Community Education) at Prairie Elementary School, grades 3-5 at the current middle school, and 6-8 at the current high school. West Learning Center would close.

“It is important to understand that although the referendum seeks approval of a new high school facility, the real need is additional space at all grade levels within our District,” said Dudley. “Through focus groups, public meetings and architectural analysis, we learned that construction of a new high school along with shifting grade levels within our existing buildings is the most efficient and cost effective way to solve our space needs.”

Building a new school offers several other direct benefits to students, staff, and the surrounding community:

  • Provides adequate instructional and program space at all grade levels
  • Reorganizes current grade configurations to better align with curricular goals across the district
  • Creates flexible spaces for personalized learning and a wider variety of instructional delivery
  • Strengthens commitment to district’s strategic plan and mission and a greater ability for community use and partnership with district facilities and programs

Worthington Schools will be making a concerted effort to provide information to the community by sending direct mail to residents, making presentations to community groups, and communicating through the district website, email, and social media. For more information, please contact Superintendent John Landgaard at 507-372-2172 or john.landgaard@isd518.net.

For details about the referendum see our Fast Facts Flyer or Hoja De Respuestas Rápidas