Board finalizes questions for Dec. 14 referendum

By Chuck Kajer

The New Prague Area School Board finalized and approved the three questions it will ask voters to approve during a December 14 bond referendum.

The first two questions follow the recommendation of a 30-member task force that met from late July through early September. Question 1 will ask voters to approve a $36 million bond to build elementary schools in New Market and New Prague, and renovate portions of the current intermediate school building. The task force determined that would be the minimum necessary for New Prague Schools to address crowding issues. The two schools would open in the fall of 2006, and according to school officials, the three elementary buildings (the intermediate school would be taken out of service for elementary aged students) would be close to full when they opened if enrollment continues to increase at the rate of the past two years.

The second question asks voters for $24.5 million, to be used to build an addition to the current high school, which opened in 1998, and to build another elementary school in Lonsdale.

The first two questions are similar to the $43 million bond asked for in May, when the district wanted to build three elementary schools, in New Market, New Prague and Lonsdale, as well as renovate the intermediate building. That vote failed, leading to the formation of the recent task force. The task force recommended adding the high school addition and asking two questions. Question 1 must pass before Question 2 would be considered.

The third question would be contingent on both Questions 1 and 2 passing, and it asks for $2.5 million for an indoor swimming pool as part of the high school addition. Superintendent Dr. Frankie Poplau said the third question was added at the request of some of the task force members, and that administration had no recommendation for or against the question. She added, though, that if the district was going to build a pool, it would make sense to do it at the same time as the high school addition.

She also stated that it would be important to communicate to voters that if the pool bond passes, the district would need to levy about $150,000 per year to operate the pool. We would need to have that levy approved before we put water in the pool. We don't want to take general education dollars and use them to support the pool.

Board members asked administration for the estimated tax impact of the three questions. Question 1 would cost the owner of a $200,000 home $21.25 per month. Question 2, would add $8.25 per month to the cost, with the state picking up some of the cost through equalization aid, and the pool would add 91 cents per month to the cost of the project. All figures are estimates for the first year of the bond levy, and would decrease as the district's tax base grows.

Board member Diane Weyrick updated the rest of the board on activities of the Vote Yes group that has been formed, including a mailing that was sent to all parents of children pre-K through grade 12 last week. She said a bond campaign kickoff rally was scheduled for October 11, at the middle school.

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