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Rural Grant County bond referendum fails with help of public school opponent

The school district has seen a number of plans come and go over the past decade, but during this election cycle tensions became more fierce as the group opposing the referendums hired Paul Dorr to help.

Vote No campaign sing in Elbow Lake, Minn.jpg
Vote No campaign sign n Elbow Lake, Minn. C.S. Hagen / The Forum

BARRETT, Minn. — Three proposals for a school building bond referendum in Grant County were beaten Tuesday, Nov. 2, in the Municipal and School District General Election.

Unofficial results show about 58.7% of Grant County voters chose to turn down the $47.4 million West Central Area Schools building bond referendum, which came in the form of three ballot questions.

If passed, the referendum would have relocated the elementary school from Kensington to construct a new building in Hoffman, added on to an elementary school in Elbow Lake and made improvements to classrooms and athletic complexes.

“The board worked to develop three well-intended proposals that would address current and long term needs of the district with a fiscally responsible and comprehensive approach,” said West Central Area Schools Superintendent Dale Hogie.

The school district has seen a number of plans come and go over the past decade, but during this election cycle tensions became more fierce as the group opposing the referendums, WCA Citizens for Progress , hired a consultant from Iowa to help.

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Paul Dorr, who is known as a “bond buster,” has a 70% success rate, fighting off at least 63 referendum votes in 26 school districts. In his crusade against public schools, Dorr focuses on rural towns with populations below 15,000, according to American Public Media .

“Whether people just didn't want to pay more taxes or people strongly believe Kensington is still a viable school for the future of the district, something needs to be done to our elementary schools. And this problem isn't going away, and it will only become more expensive,” said Jared Olson, a new father and a city mechanic for nearby Fergus Falls. He worked on the Vote Yes committee and has stepdaughters in third and fifth grades attending public schools in Grant County.

“This should have passed,” Olson said.

Attempts on Wednesday to contact Joe Green, chairman for the WCA Citizens for Progress, were unsuccessful.

Earlier, Green said, “District and county officials are causing great harm to the confidence” of area voters. In press releases and fliers, the group was focused on what they believe was voter fraud, postal service issues and the fact that some mail-in ballots have been rejected because postal box addresses were used.

The first question posed to voters was: Should the district issue general obligation school bonds for $37,030,000 to build a new elementary school in Hoffman and renovate the school in Elbow Lake?

According to election results tallied by West Central Area Schools and provided by Hogie and the Minnesota Secretary of State, 39.8% or 846 people voted in favor, and 60.2% or 1,279 people voted against the measure.

The second question: Should the district issue school building bonds not to exceed $4,870,000 for acquisition and betterment of school sites and facilities?

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Unofficial results show that 46.2% or 981 people voted for the measure, and 53.8% or 1,142 people voted against it.

The third question: Should the district issue school building bonds not to exceed $5,495,000 for acquisition and betterment of school sites including athletic facilities?

Unofficial results show that 37.9% or 804 people voted in favor, and 62.1% or 1,318 people voted against the measure.

Official results will be announced at the Nov. 10 board meeting, Hogie said.

Related Topics: EDUCATIONMINNESOTA
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