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Fergus Falls to Vote Again on Athletic Facility - Valley News Live - KVLY/KXJB - Fargo/Grand Forks

Fergus Falls to Vote Again on Athletic Facility

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Voters in the Fergus Falls School District will take to the polls next Tuesday, once again trying to decide if the district needs a $5.4 million outdoor athletic facility.

Voters did not approve a bond referendum in November. Fifty-four percent of those who voted said yes, but 60 percent was needed.

School board member Darrel Tungseth supports a new bond referendum saying, "It will give us a good facility, good outdoor facilities to go with the newly remodeled school."

School board members hope reworking the project to just include Kennedy Secondary School and reduce the cost will both be enough to persuade voters this time around.

The new layout addresses concerns about the project's complexity and lowers the cost by $790,000.

"It works good where we can do another project that needs to be done and actually people's taxes will go down," says Tungseth.

With a current bond that expires this year, people are paying about $24 per year on a $100,000 home. With the new bond they would pay just under $18 dollars per. If the bond does not pass, they will pay nothing.

The new plan has generated a lot of support.

Margaret Kratzke says, "I'm excited about it. We really need to keep up our facilities. We've got a great school, great school system."

"A lot of things need to be updated," adds Steven Gundersen.

But there are still those who are not buying the District's ideas.

One woman who would not appear on camera said there are better uses for her tax dollars like fixing roads. She also said she would rather vote for something everyone, not just the school, can use like an aquatics center.

School board members like Tungseth are not sure how the community will vote. That is a little worrisome because Tungseth says there is no other plan in mind if this bond fails.

Absentee ballots are already available at the Otter Tail County Government Services Center.

The polls will open Tuesday. Here are the locations:

THE COMBINED POLLING PLACES FOR THIS SPECIAL ELECTION OF THE FERGUS FALLS PUBLIC SCHOOLS AND THE PRECINCTS SERVED BY THOSE POLLING PLACES ARE AS FOLLOWS:

Combined Polling Place 1: Fergus Falls Fire Station, 325 Washington Avenue East, Fergus Falls, MN
This combined polling place serves all territory in Independent School District No. 544 located in the City of Fergus Falls, Ward 1, Precincts 1 and 2; Otter Tail County, Minnesota.

Combined Polling Place 2: National Guard Armory, 421 Cecil Avenue, Fergus Falls, MN
This combined polling place serves all territory in Independent School District No. 544 located in the City of Fergus Falls, Ward 2, Precincts 1 and 2; Otter Tail County, Minnesota.

Combined Polling Place 3: Minnesota State Community & Technical College, Library Building: Room L105, 1414 College Way, Fergus Falls, MN
This combined polling place serves all territory in Independent School District No. 544 located in the City of Fergus Falls, Ward 3, Precincts 1 and 2; Otter Tail County, Minnesota.

Combined Polling Place 4: Hillcrest Lutheran Academy Gym, 610 Hillcrest Drive, Fergus Falls, MN
This combined polling place serves all territory in Independent School District No. 544 located in the City of Fergus Falls, Ward 4, Precincts 1 and 2; Otter Tail County, Minnesota.

Combined Polling Place 5: Stavanger Church, 27113 Stavanger Church Road, Fergus Falls, MN
This combined polling place serves all territory in Independent School District No. 544 located in Aurdal Township, Friberg Township, Maine Township and Sverdrup Township; Otter Tail County, Minnesota.

Combined Polling Place 6: Lakes Area Shooting Center, 19135 250th Street, Fergus Falls, MN
This combined polling place serves all territory in Independent School District No. 544 located in Carlisle Township, Elizabeth Township, City of Elizabeth, Fergus Falls Township, Oscar Township; Otter Tail County, Minnesota - and Akron Township; Wilkin County, Minnesota.

Combined Polling Place 7: Dalton Community Hall, 114 Main Street West, Dalton, MN
This combined polling place serves all territory in Independent School District No. 544 located in the City of Dalton, Dane Prairie Township and Tumuli Township; Otter Tail County, Minnesota.

Combined Polling Place 8: Orwell Town Hall, 14503 210th Street, Fergus Falls, MN
This combined polling place serves all territory in Independent School District No. 544 located in Aastad Township, Buse Township, Orwell Township and Western Township; Otter Tail County, Minnesota.

Any eligible voter residing in the school district may vote at said election at the combined polling place designated above for the precinct in which he or she resides. The polls for said election will be opened at 7 am and will close at 8 pm on the date of said election.

A voter must be registered to vote to be eligible to vote in this election. An unregistered individual may register to vote at the combined polling place on election day.
 
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More public information on the Outdoor Facilities Bond Referendum:
 
Due to the district being land locked, it was vitally important to carefully review the district's existing green space and create a plan to effectively utilize every inch. The task force determined that our district has a shortage of quality green space for physical education classes and practices. An important component to quality green space is that it needs proper drainage during wet seasons, along with an irrigation sprinkler system to in order to grow turf that will withstand the heavy use by physical education classes and co-curricular activities. The district currently does not have these capabilities.

Citing student safety related to young people traveling to practices and events, the task force encouraged the District to have as many activities on site as possible. With this plan, tennis, soccer, football, track and field, softball activities, along with a science environmental center would all be located at the Kennedy site.

The football bleachers are in dire need of replacement. The general condition of the bleachers is poor and lacks handicapped accessibility.

Summary
  • Current taxes will be reduced from $24.16 per year to $17.69 per year on a $100,000 property.
  • Irrigation - all green space will be sprinkled which will allow for safer fields for the players
  • Additional parking closer to the building and fields
  • Environmental science area developed
  • Handicapped accessible bleachers for the football and track complex
  • Continuous green space for practice fields
  • 8-lane track allows conference and section events to be hosted
  • Safety: softball, track, football, soccer, tennis, and 9th grade baseball all within one area
  • Easy access to the concession stands and restrooms

SCHOOL DISTRICT BALLOT QUESTION:
APPROVAL OF SCHOOL DISTRICT BOND ISSUE

Shall the school board of Independent School District No. 544 (Fergus Falls Public Schools) be authorized to issue its general obligation school building bonds in an amount not to exceed $5,475,000 to provide funds for the acquisition and betterment of school sites and facilities, including the construction and equipping of additions, improvements, site improvements and related facilities to expand and improve the school district's existing outdoor athletic sites and facilities?

BY VOTING "YES" ON THIS BALLOT QUESTION, YOU ARE VOTING FOR A PROPERTY TAX INCREASE.

Why does the School Board believe this bond referendum is so important to the school and the community?

The School District has a need for quality green space to accommodate physical education classes, activities and an onsite environmental learning area. All of the school sites are landlocked, so expansion is not an option – as a result the School District has to utilize every square inch of the existing sites.

What is a bond referendum?

A bond referendum is a means by which a school district can ask voters to approve funding exclusively for new construction and/or extensive remodeling of existing sites and buildings. Bond referendums cannot be used for salaries or for educational programs.

The School Board has determined that there are three key benefits for the school and community:

  1. Wellness - The District is focusing on physical activity and nutrition to improve student health. The academic success of America's youth is strongly linked with their health. Consequently, students would greatly benefit by having expanded green space, quality fields and facilities.
  2. Safety - First, the football bleachers would be replaced with up-to-date and handicap accessible bleachers for students and fans. Second, having softball, tennis, soccer, football, and track and field all on the Kennedy Secondary School campus is much safer with less driving. Quality fields have an irrigation system to keep fields from getting too hard during dry seasons, while proper drainage systems avoids soggy and slippery conditions. Having a quality field lessens the chance for injuries to students and athletes – another safety feature of this project.
  3. Economics – Expanding the track to eight lanes and installing all of the field events for a meet will allow the District to host conference and section events. The District has already seen an increase of people attending events, staying overnight in local hotels, and spending dollars in the community through large events that are held at the Gold Gym and the Community Arena.

What is included in the project?


This bond referendum focuses on the Kennedy Secondary School site: two softball fields, eight tennis courts, football/track/soccer complex with new handicapped accessible bleachers, expanded green space for physical education with an irrigation system, and completion of an environmental learning area.

What has changed in the project since last fall?

The project has been reduced by $790,000 or 14%. This project focuses only on the Kennedy Secondary School site, and combines the concession stands and garage into one building reducing the bond issuance cost.

Why is the project reduced from the November 2012 bond referendum?

There are two reasons why the project is being reduced. The first is due to a state law requiring the amount of the bond referendum to be changed by at least 5% if a school district goes out to the voters within six months after an election. The second reason was based on community input. The School Board heard the project was too large and complex. The project reduces the amount by 14% and concentrates just on Kennedy Secondary School.

So what was removed from the original project and what is going to happen to Cleveland and Roosevelt?

The Cleveland and Roosevelt projects are no longer a part of this bond referendum, but the District is intending to improve these sites as future funds allow. The District would like to install an irrigation system on the west side of the Cleveland site to host varsity soccer games. The ice rink would remain at Cleveland. At Roosevelt, a grass infield and fencing would be added.

Who would pay for the bond referendum?

ALL property owners in School District #544, not just the property owners within the City of Fergus Falls, would pay for this bond referendum.

With the lower bond referendum amount, how does this affect my taxes?

The School District's current 1994 bond referendum for the science wing and media center at the old high school is expiring in 2013. Property owners in the Fergus Falls School District are currently paying $24.16 per year or $2.01 per month on a $100,000 property. With the 1994 bond expiring and if this new bond referendum was approved, the cost for that same $100,000 property would be $17.69 per year or $1.47 per month.

If it's true that my taxes are going to be reduced, why does it state in the ballot question that if I vote yes, I am voting for a property tax increase?

With the 1994 bond referendum expiring, your tax obligation on that referendum will be zero. If the April 2, 2013 bond referendum passes, there would be a new tax obligation at a lower rate, but it would be greater than zero. Again, the tax on a $100,000 home would be $17.69 per year or $1.47 per month.

Did you consider other plans?

Yes, the School District has explored the possibility of leaving the football field in the same location with the bleachers located on the opposite side. The cost of this proposal was the same because the amount of soils needed to be hauled in to complete the project. Another disadvantage of this option was the reduction of two practice fields versus the plan proposed.

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