SCF Referendum question passes

Greg Marsten | Staff writer
ST. CROIX FALLS – While final results on the St. Croix Falls School District referendum were still unofficial at press time, due to a variety of municipalities involved in voting, but the ballot question appears to have passed by a 1,087 to 924 vote, in favor. The $14-million referendum question allows the district to build a performing arts center and also a new fitness center, as well as add-on to their bus garage.
“Certainly are very pleased,” district administrator Mark Burandt said after the initial results were revealed. “Shows how very supportive our communities are when there is a need. Would not have happened without a lot of effort of the advocacy committee led by Rachel Stack Baillargeon, Shirley Miller-Frey and Shawn Gudmunsen. 
According to city officials, the district will meet on Wednesday, April 15 to canvass and finalize the vote totals for release later that day, but it seems doubtful the results would change all that much, in spite of some ballot irregularities experienced across the state, due to absentee ballot issues and a lack of postmarks.
The tentative approval will allow the district to move forward on the three projects, two of them on the high school side of the complex, where they will build an $11.6-million performing arts center, modeled after the auditorium complex at the Unity School District in Balsam Lake that was completed in the last few years and seats just under 600 people.
The approved referendum also allows them to spend up to $1.875-million for a fitness center to replace their current weight room, as well as up to $525,000 on expanding and improving the district bus garage at the St. Croix Falls campus, allowing for construction of larger stalls, adding wash bays, and allowing for some storage of maintenance equipment and to allow for more secure indoor storage for other district vehicles. The current bus garage will be upgraded to allow for modern buses, which are larger today than when the garage was built 50 years ago.
With the referendum approval, the projected project tax impacts are expected to add approximately $55/annually to the property tax bill for every $100,000 of equalized value in the district.
With the approval, the bond issuance process will begin in the coming weeks, for a 20-year term, although interest rates are technically up in the air at the moment, borrowing rates have fallen dramatically in recent months and may allow the district some long-term savings. The referendum is the second to pass voter muster in the last three years, with the district passing a deferred maintenance referendum in 2017 that amounted to $5.2-million, primarily to get caught up on a variety of long-term maintenance projects and efficiency upgrades. The latest referendum does not affect the 2017 passage.
The St. Croix Falls Board of Education meets Tuesday, April 14, where among the issues they will consider is the options they have for timelines on implementing the financing, planning and implementation of the project.

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