PEQUOT LAKES -- A Pequot Lakes resident compared his garbage bill with the property tax increase he could possibly see if voters approve the $27.85 million bond referendum for the Pequot Lakes School District.
Resident Michael Erholtz, after a community meeting at the school Thursday, said his annual garbage bill equals the anticipated annual property tax increase. Erholtz, who has three children in the district, said he is thrilled about the referendum because it would mean smaller class sizes and improved education.
The district sponsored seven community meetings to inform taxpayers about the referendum. School officials discussed the proposal to build an elementary school in Breezy Point and to renovate the current school into a sixth- through 12th-grade facility. About 20 people attended the Thursday meeting, which was the last meeting before Tuesday's referendum.
Don Porter, who has volunteered his time to help the district with the referendum, said if it does not pass students would have fewer opportunities and programs would be more restrictive. There would also be portable classrooms, overcrowding in the cafeteria and an inadequate media center.
"Construction cost will be an additional $3 million more each year we delay this," he said. "We are already below state standards. All the space we have is being used and we have no more room for the students."
The district has grown 23 percent since 1995 and is projected to grow an additional 44.7 percent by 2010. Enrollment this year is 1,337 and is projected to hit 2,000 by 2010.
If the referendum is approved, the new elementary school would be located on County Road 11 about 1.5 miles east of the city and would serve 950-1,000 students. The school would be completed by 2003.
Middle-level students would be housed in the current elementary wing and high school students would remain in the high school wing.
New classrooms would be created, the media center would be enlarged in the high school and it would become a facility the community and all students in the district could use.
Additional lockers and common areas would be created. The existing classrooms would be renovated to serve specific classes, such as additional band and music room space and a science lab.
The small gymnasium used for elementary students possibly would be developed into another large group meeting room and four pie-shaped elementary classrooms would be reconfigured to become seventh-grade classrooms. The renovating would be completed between 2002-03.
Residents voiced their opinions after the meeting Thursday. A majority of the residents said they were in favor of the referendum.
"I'm 100 percent for it," said Lynnette Tiedemann, Breezy Point. "I have five kids in the school and we will be here for a long time."
Daryl Harmdierks, Breezy Point, said if the referendum passes he would continue to pay for an education at a cheap rate.
He has two children and the school portion of his property taxes comes out to about $5 a month per child for their education.
"The decision is pretty simple to me," he said.
Jennifer Foss, rural Pequot Lakes, said she is undecided about the referendum. Foss sends her children to a private school so her children have no association with the public school.
She said she already pays a lot in taxes since she owns a lake home and puts a lot of money into private school.
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