At last week’s special Hinckley-Finlayson school board meeting, the board decided to put the bond referendum for general safety and maintenance and new construction back on the ballot for the November 7 election.
After the bond was voted down in May, the school board and members of the community formed a task force. They have met several times since. Last Wednesday, they presented their findings to the board.
School board chairman Mary Ellen Von Rueden started the meeting by thanking the community members for their dedication to the community by taking part in the task force. She went on to say, “In the end we will try to select an option that we feel is the best; based on all the facts and opinions, we will have to agree to disagree.”
A brief public comment period began with members of the task force giving their opinions. Each participant was given three minutes to speak.
Teacher and task force member Dan Kreft told the board he would love to see Option Three chosen as it gives the most bang for buck. “As someone who works in the district and sees the needs every day, I think it would be a big mistake to short ourselves right now and end up costing the community members more down the road.”
Task force member Deb Kroschel said, “Bottom line is: It’s about our kids.” She went on to say there is less vandalism and such when kids have better choices. “The more we can do for kids the better.”
Gabe Cessna told the board that a gymnasium and wellness center would be an amazing opportunity for the school and community, including more opportunities for community education activities.
On the other side of the proverbial table, task force member Barb Woody said her biggest concerns are, of course, safety of the children and maintenance of the building, but she fears that education is left at the wayside.
“I know everyone here is working as hard as they can,” she explained, “but I would like to see that improve. For the school to do whatever it is they have to do for all of the demographics that we have. We need to figure out what we need to do for all of the students, not just some of them.”
She questioned why the district doesn’t use the Finlayson building more. She concluded by saying, “We need to focus on what we need, not just what we want.”
Four options were presented to the board. They voted and unanimously chose Option Four which will be split into two questions.
Question one will cost $7,225,000 and will cover safety and maintenance issues, a new gym and two kindergarten classrooms. The average cost to homeowners will be $2 per year for 20 years.
Question two will cover the community education space, the recreation and fitness center along with a more secure entrance to the school and relocation of the high school office to the main entry. Question two will be contingent on question one passing and will cost approximately $2.75 million. This will raise the average homeowner’s taxes by $12 per year for 20 years. The district would receive an additional $1,000,000 grant from FirstLight Health Systems for the community wellness center if question two passes.
Board member Bill Randall said, “We as a board have to do our job, above and beyond, to get the information out this time around so that everyone is educated and knows exactly what we are trying to accomplish.”
The board hopes to get this information out in as many ways as possible before the election on November 7.