District 197 voters bolster technology, security funds

With a string of Facebook photos Nov. 5, School District 197 thanked the community for voting to increase funding for technology and security initiatives. Similar requests failed in a special election in May. (Courtesy photo)

Steam behind stadium falls short at polls

The second time's the charm for School District 197.

West St. Paul-Mendota Heights-Eagan Area Schools will see a jump in funding starting next year, thanks to the around 10,000 voters who said "yes" to security upgrades and renewing and increasing the technology levy. 

In a special election May 6, district leaders had anticipated an easy win, but the two-part referendum aimed at increasing technology funding and upgrading facilities and security measures in the district failed. The school board then decided to go back to the voters Nov. 4 with a scaled-back building bond, and an additional question on the ballot about building a new stadium.

About 54 percent of the vote (9,650 voters) approved a $1.2 million levy to maintain and boost technological infrastructure in the district. Just over 10,000 votes were in favor of bolstering security initiatives.

But only about 36 percent of voters in the school district were behind the building of a new $4.585 million stadium near Henry Sibley High School in Mendota Heights, causing the third question to fail. Brought to the school board's attention by a small, but enthusiastic group, the stadium would have replaced Charles Matson Field in West St. Paul.

Voters approved two questions:

First, a request to renew and increase the technology levy, also called the capital project levy. According to the district, the existing levy for $490,000 per year will expire this year; the approved request will provide $1.2 million per year, an increase of  $710,000 annually. It will last for 10 years, for an overall cost of $12 million to maintain current equipment and technological infrastructure, such as Wi-Fi internet access, and expand the district's iPad program.

Second, the district asked to issue general obligation building bonds. The $3.275 million is expected to improve security at entrances and enhance security throughout district schools by expanding lock-down capabilities.

Voters across the state supported increases in school funding. According to Education Minnesota, 30 of the 39 districts that had levies on the ballot Tuesday passed at least one question.

—Kaitlyn Roby

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