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Pine City School Board Approves Special Election for Bond Referendum

The Pine City School Board approved going out for a referendum during a special election scheduled early next year.


The referendum vote is scheduled for February 13, 2024.


The district originally planned to hold the referendum vote this past November; however, changes at the state level caused the election to be pushed back.


"We just need to move forward," Pine City Superintendent Dr. Cindy Stolp told WCMP. "The elementary building is in tough shape. If we waited until next November, it pushes it out, so If we do November 2024, we wouldn't be in anything until November of 2026. I don't know if the roofs are going to make it that long. We already have dozens of leaks all over. Postponing isn't a good option."


According to the original resolution, the community will decide on three questions:


- Shall the board of Independent School District No. 578 (Pine City), Minnesota be authorized to issue general obligation school building bonds in an amount not to exceed $37,600,000 for acquisition and betterment of school sites and facilities including, but not limited to, deferred capital maintenance projects at the high school, construction of a new Alternative Learning Center, deferred capital maintenance, renovation and addition projects at the elementary school?


- If School District Question 1 is approved, shall the board of Independent School District No. 578 (Pine City), Minnesota be authorized to issue general obligation school building bonds in an amount not to exceed $3,100,000 for acquisition and betterment of school sites and facilities including, but not limited to, renovations to special education, cafeteria and group learning spaces at the high school?


- If School District Question 1 is approved, shall the board of Independent School District No. 578 (Pine City), Minnesota be authorized to issue general obligation school building bonds in an amount not to exceed $8,600,000 for acquisition and betterment of school sites and facilities including, but not limited to, gymnasium expansions and site improvements at the high school?


If all three questions are approved, the state would issue around $49.3 million in bonds to Pine City Schools.


School Board member Cami Babolik did raise concerns over the wording of the first question. In her words, Babolik stressed the importance of properly representing what they were asking voters to decide on.


"Reading descriptions like this, everybody looks and says how does that affect me. If it sounds like we are building new for the [Area Learning Center] but remodeling in other places, that can just give those perceptions," said Babolik.


The district is looking to move the Area Learning Center (ALC) to the former Car Truck City property across from the high school.


Babolik also asked for the elementary school project to be moved to be first when describing the projects in the first question because that project is a bulk of the work needing to be done with the referendum.


"In a time when I think words matter, we should put the elementary school first because that has been our major project in that whole category," Babolik said.


The board approved reordering the questions to have the elementary school listed first and removing the word "new" from describing the construction work on the ALC.


Board Chair James Foster motioned to approve the resolution with changes calling for the special election. It was approved unanimously by the board.


The changes to the ballot's language will be sent back to the bond attorney for final approval.


The polling location for the referendum has been set for the Pine City School District Office. The district says residents can expect more information about the election in the coming months.




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