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District moves forward with referendum plans

Both referendum questions passed in the April 3 election. Now the school board is moving forward with the next steps. File photo

Thanks to two referendum questions that both passed on the April 3 ballot, the River Falls School District has its work cut out for it over the next several years.

"We're awful proud and thankful and appreciative of our community's support for our kids, and their education," said River Falls School District Superintendent Jamie Benson. "For the value that the community places on education for investing in today's children and their future."

The referendum

The referendum questions were as follows:

Question 1:

Shall the School District of River Falls, Pierce and St. Croix counties, Wisconsin, be authorized to issue pursuant to Chapter 67 of the Wisconsin Statutes, general obligation bonds in an amount not to exceed $45,860,000 for the public purpose of paying the cost of a District-wide school building and improvement program consisting of: improving, upgrading, renovating, remodeling, and maintaining various school facilities, including Greenwood, Rocky Branch, Westside and Montessori Elementary schools, Meyer Middle School, River Falls High School and the transportation and maintenance buildings; constructing and equipping additions to Greenwood, Rocky Branch, Westside and Montessori Elementary Schools for classrooms, multi-purpose/flexible space and cafeteria/kitchen space; demolition of a portion of the Academy Building and portable classrooms at Westside Elementary School; upgrading technology infrastructure; site and athletic facility improvements and acquiring furnishings, fixtures and equipment?

Results (St. Croix and Pierce counties district voters) showed 3,115 yes votes to 1,168 no votes.

Question 2:

Shall the School District of River Falls Pierce and St. Croix Counties, Wisconsin, be authorized to issue pursuant to Chapter 67 of the Wisconsin Statutes, general obligation bonds in an amount not to exceed $2,100,000 for the public purpose of paying the cost of school facility improvements consisting of the addition of artificial turf and lighting to outdoor fields, parking and other improvements?

Results (St. Croix and Pierce counties district voters) showed 2,932 yes votes to 1,685 no votes.

Next steps

The first steps, Benson said, will be working with architects and construction management firms on the design phase. The district will work with Ayers Associates for architect management and Kraus Anderson for construction management. That part of the process will take place over the summer, Benson said. Work would be bid out in the fall. Significant, large projects would begin construction next spring and would take the next two summers to complete.

Benson said some "low-hanging fruit" projects, smaller projects that are more easily completed, may be taken on this summer. Those include things like surfacing issues in some parking lots, resurfacing a tennis court, etc.

"While the lion's share of the bigger projects will not begin until next spring, there are some things that we hope to tackle right away this summer," Benson said.

He said the district will continue to be "very transparent" about the construction process and communicate with the public via the website, newsletters, and more.

"We will make a strong and concerted effort to keep our community apprised of progress as we move forward," Benson said.

The district is grateful for voters' support of the referendum.

"We're very proud and thankful and appreciative," Benson said, "for our community's support for our school and for our kids."

Gretta Stark

Gretta Stark has been a reporter for the River Falls Journal since July of 2013. She previously worked as a reporter for the New Richmond News from June 2012 to July 2013. She holds a BA in Print and Electronic Media from Wartburg College.

(651) 301-7849