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Patrons to vote on smaller building plan

Posted 12/01/15 (Tue)

By Jody Michael
The Divide County School Board resolved in a special meeting Monday to seek voter approval of a bond measure about half the size of last April’s failed effort to fund building renovation and expansion.
Board members decided to pursue $9.9 million in bonds, down from $20 million in the previous measure. 
The special election will take place Feb. 9.
The purpose of the bonds would be to cover the cost of replacing the heating systems in both the elementary and high school buildings, as well as adding a few classrooms and an elevator in the elementary school.
The board chose to remove a few items from its current plans so that its request to voters would not exceed $10 million.
“I think you’ve got to put the figure under 10,” Board President Pete Fagerbakke said. “Look at the way they advertise a car, TV, anything.”
The smaller dollar figure will require the district to abstain from its desire to attach a middle school and new district office to the current high school building.
School officials instead are placing a priority on the elementary school building, since that is where most of the district’s enrollment growth has occurred.
Superintendent Sherlock Hirning said he hopes the construction bids will come in lower than he anticipates, so that he doesn’t have to scale back the building plans quite so much.
“I also project our assessment to continue to grow,” he said. 
“There are pipelines planned that are still going to take place, so we will see stability or a little bit of growth,” as a result of the money they pay to the subdivisions in lieu of property tax.
A few board members said they would like to revisit the high school additions once more immediate building concerns have been addressed.
“We want people not to discard the high school renovations,” Board Member Holly Krecklau said. “In five years, those kids are going be in the high school, and we’re not going to have room for that. We are going to need classrooms.”
“As much as I want that second gymnasium too, we need to keep it at $10 million and see how things come out,” Board Member Steve Feil said.
The special election will have just the one question on the ballot regarding the bond measure. 
That’s in contrast to last April, when the size of the plan was large enough to require a second measure to raise the district’s debt limit.
Hirning said he plans to schedule a few public meetings in January leading up to the vote.
Fagerbakke suggested holding meetings in locations outside of school property in an effort to improve voter outreach.
“You might reach people you aren’t going to reach here,” he said.