Voters to decide Tuesday on Benson school building levy

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This photo of the new auditorium at the Dassel-Cokato school shows what the new Benson High School performing arts center could look like if voters approve the Aug. 14 District 777 building bond levy. Photo courtesy of Architects Rego + Youngquist, Inc.

$26.3 million proposal inlcudes new auditorium, space for childcare services
 

Next Tuesday voters in District 777 will decide the future of the quality of the educational facilities for Benson Public Schools, and many supporters say, the future of the area.

Tuesday, Aug. 14, voters will cast their ballots on a $26.3 million building bond levy with these key features:

  • Adding a new wing to the west end of the Northside Elementary School dedicated to infant and toddler daycare, pre-school children, and the Discovery Kids program.
  • Construction of a new cafeteria at the Northside that can also be used for meetings and some recreational activities. The addition will free space in the gymnasium at the Northside for physical education classes and events. Currently, half the gym is needed for serving meals.
  • Building new performing arts center to replace the 1928 Junior High School Auditorium, now out of use due to part of the ceiling falling into the seating area.
  • Adding a new classrooms at the senior high dedicated to 21st Century learning approaches. Also, the construction of a new band room.
  • Converting the indoor swimming pool space to a gym. The pool area is larger than the high school auxiliary gym.
  • Demolition of the 1928 auditorium and 1950 Junior High building.
  • Adding new security features to the Northside Elementary and Benson High School.

Mild opposition this time

Opposition to the proposed building levy has been quiet this year, unlike the $18.7 million building levy that went to the voters in May 2015. That year farmers organized meetings throughout the district in a push to get the levy defeated as they faced low commodity prices.

Those farmers were supported by people who thought the plan was poorly developed, changed frequently, involved fourth graders moving to the high school, and who opposed closing the indoor pool.

Even though commodity prices are still low, there is not nearly the opposition this year from the farming community. In fact, there have been farm families speaking out in favor of the 2018 building levy.

One reason farmland owners may be quiet this year is the Ag2School 40 percent tax credit passed by the 2017 Legislature. Through the tax credit the state will pick up $4 of every $10 in additional tax on farmland.

For the proposed $26.3 million proposed building levy, the new tax credit means the state will contribute $11 million toward the project when the interest payments are counted in. In all, the state will pick up 28 percent of the cost of the building project through the credit.

There is no guarantee future legislatures will keep the tax credit in place. However, if a school district passes a levy now with the law in effect, the credit is available for the term of the bonding-for Benson Public School’s - this means 20 years.

There are still those who oppose the levy because they don’t want to see the indoor swimming pool shut down. However, it has already been closed for more than a year and doesn’t appear to have the same traction this time around as a reason to defeat the levy....

 

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Pictured: This photo of the new auditorium at the Dassel-Cokato school shows what the new Benson High School performing arts center could look like if voters approve the Aug. 14 District 777 building bond levy. Photo courtesy of Architects Rego + Youngquist, Inc.

 

 

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