Schools around the Twin Cities metro area got green lights from voters Tuesday to kick off new construction, renovations and technology improvements totaling more than $1 billion.
Voters said “yes” to all but a couple of proposed projects in metro districts, and approved most operating levies.
Statewide, 41 districts pitched bonds Tuesday, and 28 districts passed a bond or capital project levy, according to the Minnesota School Boards Association. In operating-levy measures around the state, 44 of 53 districts passed a question.
This year’s operating-levy passage rate went above 80 percent for just the third time since 2000, association spokesman Greg Abbott said Wednesday. He added that some were renewals.
The sweeping approvals included the state’s biggest bond request in two decades: a $249 million plea from the Anoka-Hennepin School District. The district last pitched a bond referendum in 1999.
Its passage will help the district improve some of its older elementary facilities “to make sure all kids have equal opportunities from our oldest buildings to our newest buildings,” Superintendent David Law said Tuesday night.
The School Boards Association said the Anoka-Hennepin measure was the largest such request since it started collecting records in 2000.
“The size of Anoka-Hennepin really plays into the size of that number,” said Anoka-Hennepin school board chairman Tom Heidemann.
The district’s voters also passed a $226.20-per-pupil operational levy, which will raise $95 million over 10 years.
Districts that included Mounds View, Roseville and Prior Lake saw bond ballot measures of more than $100 million pass with healthy support — higher dollar amounts than previous requests, Abbott said.
On Wednesday, school officials in the metro celebrated the victories for their growing student bodies.
“This bond referendum gives our school district a tremendous opportunity to not only repair our schools but expand and update learning spaces,” Roseville Superintendent Aldo Sicoli wrote on the district’s website.
Not all succeeded
Not all districts were granted their requests. Forest Lake voters said “no” to both the district’s operating levy and facilities bond questions. The Columbia Heights district’s $16 million bond request for safety, educational updates and construction failed.
“This bond would have upgraded outdated facilities, including security, which would have better served our and your students,” Columbia Heights School Board Chairman John Larkin wrote on the district’s website. “Without the support of our voters, these necessary upgrades cannot move forward.”
Most districts that didn’t pass operating levies or bonds were outside the metro area, Abbott said.
The overall positive outcome sent a good sign about commitment among the state’s voters, said Denise Specht, president of statewide teachers’ union, Education Minnesota.
“The results show individual Minnesotans are willing to spend a little more to give the children in their communities a great start, with well-trained, professional educators and modern buildings,” she said in a statement Wednesday.