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Referendum information sessions to begin

Somerset School District voters will be asked to make a decision on a $29.5 million referendum on April 5 that would be used to purchase 69 acres of land and pay for the construction of new elementary and high school buildings for the school district.

This will be the first in a series of articles about the referendum that will appear before the April 5 vote.

The impetus behind the referendum is the recent population growth in the school district and the huge population increase that is expected to follow in the area in the next 10 years.

Since 1990, the number of students in the school district has grown by more than 600. In the past two years alone, the number of students has grown by 243. That is a 40 percent increase.

The Applied Population Laboratory at the University of Wisconsin-Madison has been hired to give projections on how the population in the district will grow in upcoming years. The Applied Population numbers project that the school district student count could rise to more than 3,500 students in the next 10 years.

The need for the new school buildings is because the current buildings are at or near capacity already. The current elementary building was built to handle 576 students. Several rooms were converted to classrooms in 2003, raising the capacity of the building to 625. The enrollment of the building has now grown above 645 students.

The current high school building has a capacity of 400 students. In February the student total at the high school reached 395 and it is expected to eclipse 400 during this school year or next fall.

The middle school in Somerset has a capacity of 480 students. The enrollment at the building is currently in the 410-415 range and projections have the enrollment increasing to the 480-mark during the 2006-07 school year.

The school district is trying to spread out the possible tax impact from the referendum over a couple years. District administrator Randy Rosburg said the cost of the land and the elementary school would go onto the tax rolls for the 2006-07 school year, while the cost of the high school would go onto the 2007-08 school year.

In an effort to save money, the school district is also exploring the refinancing of the bonds from the construction of the current elementary school. According to state law, schools can only refinance bonds on a building project once. A few years ago the bonds on the high school were refinanced, saving taxpayers nearly $250,000. With interest rates staying relatively low, the school board is thinking this may be a good time to do the refinancing of the elementary school bonds.

Rosburg said the need for the new school buildings is because of the popularity of living in Somerset.

"There is a demand to live in this area and people are supplying homes for that demand," he said. "The board is making projections to deal with that demand."

Community Referendum Information Meetings

Monday, Feb. 28: 11-11:30 a.m. at elementary school IMC

Monday, Feb. 28: 12:45-1:15 p.m. at elementary school IMC

Wednesday, March 2: 7-8 p.m., high school multi-purpose room

Thursday, March 3: 7-8 p.m., middle school burgundy room

Monday, March 7: 5:45-6:45 p.m., Beaudette Center at St. Anne's Church

Thursday, March 10: 7-8 p.m., Christ Lutheran Church

Dave Newman
Dave Newman has been the sports editor at the New Richmond News since 1988. He has covered the action in the Middle Border Conference, Dunn-St. Croix Conference and Big Rivers Conference for nearly 30 years.
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