The first local ballot contest in this election year was the St. Anthony New Brighton School District, which held a special election on May 20 asking voters to approve almost $27 million in improvements to its high school, middle school and elementary school.
The ballot was split into four questions, each with different projects and dollar amounts. If the first one didn’t pass, none of the remaining three could be considered. If a majority of voters approved the first question, any or all of the next three could also be approved.
As it turned out, only the first one passed. It was a request to issue $11,515,000 in general obligation school building bonds to renovate and repair the schools, improve science and computer labs, renovate the high school kitchen and build a new student drop off area in front of the high school and middle school. The question passed by 1,440 to 1,340, a 51-49 percent margin.
The second question, for $4,970,000 [issuance of general obligation school building bonds] to enlarge the facilities for the music programs, renovate high school locker rooms, and build an addition onto Wilshire Park School for all-day kindergarten, failed, 1,484 votes to 1,259, a 55-45 percent margin.
The third, $4,305,000 to renovate art and industrial technology areas at the high school and improve the student drop off area at the elementary school, failed 1,538 to 1,199, a 57-43 percent margin.
The fourth, $6,035,000 to build a new student commons area, renovate the auditorium and the fitness and wellness areas in the high school, failed 1,574 to 1,169, a 58-42 percent margin.
(Numerically speaking, the number of “no” votes went up with the question numbers; questions 2, 3 and 4 lost by 225, 339, and 405 votes, respectively.)
“While the community did not approve all four of the ballot questions, we are nevertheless happy and grateful that the community supported ballot question number one,” school board member Mike Volna wrote in an email to the Northeaster.
“The funds approved by passage of that question will allow us to make some vital upgrades to infrastructure, science labs, computer labs, and traffic flow around both campuses. When you combine the funds approved as part of question 1 with the approval of health and safety improvements authorized by the state (which did not require voter approval), we will be able to invest about $21 million in St. Anthony-New Brighton educational facilities. That is a great outcome and the School Board, administration and staff are all excited.”
Volna added that the board intends to take a closer look at the three questions that were not approved, because the need is still there. “We need to understand why the community did not approve those ballot questions, and work to come up with an approach that the community will support. We will spend the summer months planning and obtaining board approval on the funded projects and getting ready to proceed with the actual construction work. We are hopeful that we can capitalize on the soft economy by obtaining lower-than-expected bids.”