Part II: Voters to decide on building bond for Owatonna Public Schools
October 28, 2015
Editor’s Note: This is part two of a two part series covering the bond vote for Owatonna Public Schools.
The voting for this year’s bond referendum is almost here. The Owatonna Public School District has partnered with Owatonna Forward in order to get the referendum passed. Members of the Owatonna community will be heading to the polls on Nov. 3, to vote yes or no for the bond referendum. The three primary components of this bond include: crowded elementary schools, school security issues and deferred maintenance needs to aging buildings. The bond to be voted on has a value of $77.9 million and would have an increase of $15 on the average homeowner’s property taxes monthly.
School Board explains the need
To understand the process of creating a bond, board chairman Mr. Mark Sebring shared his knowledgable views on the bond. Sebring said, “The task force worked on it [referendum] for about four months, until the latter part of April. We had to have certain steps in place to present it to the state of Minnesota and the Department of Education, in order for it to be a viable referendum item on the ballot this fall.” For those curious as to what will happen if this referendum does not pass, Sebring said, “We will probably have to go back to the drawing board and figure out an approach relative to what do we do next.”
There are three very specific needs for the bond. School district superintendent Mr. Peter Grant said, “The bond referendum is made up of three main components. One is deferred maintenance, which is to address infrastructures of our school’s heating, ventilating, lighting and plumbing. The second part is our school’s safety and security. Specifically, our elementaries are our most vulnerable sites right now. The third part is overcrowding, which is going to address grades K-8, to try to create more space, balance population amongst the elementaries, which are at a low of about four hundred and fifty to a high of six hundred.” These improvements would work on replacing the outdated utilities in hopes of developing the growing schools.
Grant explained how this is in the best interest of the wellbeing of our educational facilities. Grant said, “The deferred maintenance is to bring all of our buildings, K-8, up to code or improve the mechanical systems, so that they can last another thirty- five years. There is no question about the security of our schools, which is really critical. It’s unfortunate that we have to spend a lot of money on that, but that’s the way society is.”
Owatonna Forward moves to the yes vote
A local group rallied to gather support for the bond, lead by chair Mrs. Peng Olson. This group focuses on getting a “Yes” Vote. Mrs. Olson said, “Owatonna Forward is a grassroots coalition of citizens from the Owatonna community, and we are about advocating for the upcoming school bond referendum. We got started back in the summer, during the Steele County Free Fair. We had a little over 100 volunteers from a very large cross section of the community that came together to begin the messaging behind Owatonna Forward.” Members of the community have started to see some of the campaigning happening around Owatonna. Between lawn signs and advertisements, Owatonna Forward has been very busy.
When it came to explaining why Owatonna Forward is so important, Mrs. Olson said, “It’s needed because with the school bond initiatives, the school board can address the facts. Their mission is to really educate the community around what’s needed and what will be affected. Owatonna Forward is an advocacy group. We’re really the ‘cheerleaders’ for the bond referendum.We want to motivate; we want to inspire the community to get out and get educated about the referendum and then finally vote.”
On the morning of Halloween, they will be having a ‘knock and drop’ event. During this event, they will be going around to over 100 different routes to put door hangers on people’s front doors, sharing facts about the bond referendum. Also, on Halloween, they will be having an activity for kids. There will be a trick or treat trail event held during the afternoon at Mineral Springs park. Volunteers are still needed and can be any age.
Mrs. Olson has a message for OHS students over 18. As Mrs. Olson’s numbers currently stand, there are 130 Owatonna High School seniors eligible to vote. Mrs. Olson said, “If you are one of the 130 that are 18, I encourage you to get registered and go vote!”
For all students and community members willing and able to vote, please go to the nearest polling site on Nov. 3. For those who have not yet registered to vote, bring one’s driver’s licence or social security card and in return, receive help registering. Polling places are posted on the City Webpage and Owatonna People’s Press news site.