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South Heart School District bond referendum election to be held Tuesday

Decision day is coming early for South Heart School District residents. District voters will determine Tuesday whether or not an $11 million bond referendum is approved to fund a major overhaul of South Heart's school. The proposed improvements w...

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South Heart School on Friday. (Press Photo by Andrew Haffner)

Decision day is coming early for South Heart School District residents.

District voters will determine Tuesday whether or not an $11 million bond referendum is approved to fund a major overhaul of South Heart’s school.

The proposed improvements would increase the space available for regular education as well as agricultural and vocational programs while replacing the oldest part of the school, a 100-year-old building that houses elementary classrooms and the school’s cafeteria.

Voting will be held at the school itself from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. that day.

South Heart Superintendent Calvin Dean said the 20-year bond requires an affirmative vote from a supermajority of at least 60 percent of participating voters to secure approval.

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“We’re cautiously optimistic,” Dean said. “We had tremendously positive feedback at public meetings, but you never know until it happens.”

At an earlier public meeting to discuss plans for the school, surveys drawn from the 88 individuals in attendance measured full approval of the district pursuing a project to increase the ability to handle increasing class sizes created by population growth in the region.

Of those, 83 of the people sampled said they’d vote in favor of the bond referendum in its entirety. Some of the five people who declined said they’d support a bond of some amount less than the full $11 million, Dean said.

In the same meeting , representatives from the district helped South Heart taxpayers affected by the referendum to calculate the impact of the financing measure.

Using the school’s taxable valuation and the total cost estimate, the tax effect is projected to come out to 35 mills, representing a tax increase of $34 for every $1,000 of taxable property valuation.

Kirby Robb, a resident of South Heart with three children in the district, said he’d found the demonstration of the project’s actual cost to residents to be helpful.

Robb, the professional at Pheasant Country Golf Course and the head girls golf coach for South Heart’s co-op with Belfield High School, said he’d attended all the meetings so far to learn more about the school expansion and that he fully supported the project.

“I’ve always been for new schools because it’s our future,” he said. “I think a new school is also a magnet for people moving into our community.”

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Robb said he’d seen the construction ideas for the facility and believed them to be a “good deal.”

As currently planned, the school renovation and build-out would span two phases in two years.

Phase one would add onto the elementary school wing of the current building’s north end while also building out new space on the south end to house the school’s vocational and agriculture department. That same phase would also see the construction of new high school classrooms and could begin as soon as this summer, with a completion timetable aimed for fall 2017, if the bond referendum is approved.

The second phase of the project would include the demolition and reconstruction of the school’s oldest building, a structure built in 1916. If things proceed as hoped by the district, work on phase two would begin at the end of the next school year to produce a completed structure in time for the 2018 school year.

In order to begin any work, the bond referendum must first be approved by the South Heart voting public.

From what he’s heard around town, Robb believes the project is widely supported. He plans to vote on Tuesday in favor of the bond.  

“I hope it passes,” Robb said. “When you’re promoting anything for education, what’s the downside of it? Nothing.”

Related Topics: EDUCATION
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