MAZEPPA -- The Zumbrota-Mazeppa School District failed to pass a bond referendum in March. Since that time, the district has surveyed the community, regrouped and revamped for a second attempt.

To better communicate their three-question plan with the public, district officials will hold three informational meetings prior to the Nov. 5 vote.

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The first meeting was held Oct. 2 in Mazeppa in the elementary school’s gymnasium. Superintendent Michael Harvey gave an hour presentation followed by a question-and-answer session for the attendees.

The district is asking the public to consider three questions:

  1. $38.585 million:

    • Improvements to security in each building

    • Remodeling and adding classroom space

    • Deferred maintenance improvements

  2. $3.35 million:

    • Building a new gymnasium in Mazeppa

  3. $4.945 million:

    • Building a new gymnasium in Zumbrota

    • Updating athletic fields , parking and accessibility

Questions 2 and 3 are contingent on the first passing. Residents can vote for each question.

Harvey said the community survey results from July made a strong impact on the district’s decision making; 847 residents responded, with a majority supporting the district’s referendum pursuit.

Making the plan more financially feasible, separating the athletic improvements into separate questions, and increasing communication efforts with the public were key takeaways from the survey results, Harvey said.

What will the referendum money go toward? Watch this video by the Z-M school district:

Could this be a financial burden?

One self-identified farmer asked how he’s supposed to find the money for this referendum.

Board members and Harvey acknowledged that it’s a difficult time for farmers in today’s world.

Vice-chair Jason Lohmann said he’s in the same situation as a farmer. However, Lohmann said farmers have to deal with increased prices of chemicals, feed, other things around the farm that are necessary.

The reason Lohmann said he farms is because he loves it, saying it’s “the farmer’s mentality” to figure out and then go and do it.

The resident said he’s not against building maintenance, but just wants to make sure there isn’t a lot of “fluff” with the deal.

“Everybody that thinks there’s a lot of fluff in this plan, there is very little to zero fluff in this plan. … To tour the school, to see kids sit in the hall,” Lohmann said. “Come to the school during the day and watch the cafeteria workers work, it’s needed. It’s not a want, it’s a need at this point in time.”

On an average home in the district, estimated at $190,000, the tax impact is expected to be $31.58 a month if all three questions pass.

Thanks to the increase of funding for the Ag2School Tax Credit, owners of agricultural land will see a decrease over the next few years, officials said.

In 2019, the Ag2School Tax Credit will increase to 40%. An extra 10% will be added the following year. By 2023, the tax credit will increase to 70%. Harvey said the tax credit will pay for 22% of the total project.

Could the Mazeppa school close?

One resident asked if the referendum didn’t pass, would there be a possibility of the Mazeppa school closing?

Treasurer Angie Bredehoft said at this point that isn't an option. The district is at capacity. Closing a school wouldn’t be feasible or responsible.

Harvey said the district can’t continue to run referendums. The district has to follow the community’s opinion, which said they want both schools. Harvey also said they wouldn’t be going for another referendum soon if this referendum fails.

The next meeting will be at 6 p.m. Oct. 9 at the Neuman Auditorium in Zumbrota.

A final public information meeting will be at 6 p.m. Oct. 28 prior to the School Board meeting.

For more information on the referendum, visit sites.google.com/zmsch.k12.mn.us/vote/home.