Referendum fails in St. Francis School District

Staff Writer
Since 2013, I have primarily covered the Anoka-Hennepin and Spring Lake Park school districts as well as the city of Spring Lake Park for ABC Newspapers.

St. Francis School District residents voted down a $92.28 million bond referendum May 23.

The question, one of two on the ballet, asked whether the school district should be authorized to issue bonds for acquisition and betterment of school facilities. It failed by a margin of 492 votes. A total of 2,496 residents voted against the referendum, and 2,004 voted in favor of the measure.

“We’re disappointed in the results,” said Lisa Rahn, director of Community Education who led work on the bond referendum in the district. “The needs will not go away.”

The district intended to use the $92.28 million to replace dated infrastructure and upgrade interior finishes in nearly all school buildings. Larger projects include the removal of portable classrooms at East Bethel Community School and the Lifelong Learning Center and construction of a 10-classroom addition to St. Francis Elementary School.

A second question was contingent on the first passing. It asked whether the district should be authorized to issue bonds in an amount not to exceed $15.52 million for acquisition and betterment of school faciltiies, particularly the addition of a four-station community activities center at St. Francis High School.

The community voted that down 2,772 to 1,722.

Rahn said the board will canvas the results Friday and begin discussing next steps.

“There’s not a plan B whatsoever,” School Board Chairperson Mike Starr said, adding that money is needed to upgrade facilities “today, tomorrow and next year.”

Starr said he appreciated the hard work of staff in the months and years leading up to the vote.

If the board so chooses, another referendum could be organized as soon as this fall.

“It’s entirely up to the School Board whether they want to go through this again in the fall,” Rahn said.