Cloquet Votes on $55 Million School Referendum
Residents Battle Snow Storm to Vote for New Middle School
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The polls are closed in Cloquet, and residents are anxiously waiting to find out if a new multi-million dollar middle school will be built.
“We have a plan that we think is a good one,” said Cloquet Superintendent Ken Scarbrough. “We’ll see if the public decides they want to go forward with that plan.”
The snowy weather Tuesday afternoon didn’t stop Cloquet voters from deciding whether to approve a $55 million dollar school referendum.
From 7:00 a.m. until 8:00 p.m., people had the chance to cast their vote to increase taxes in exchange for a state of the art middle school.
Voters were faced with two questions.
The first asks for a new middle school to be built on the same campus as the high school costing $48,930,000.
The second question is asking for an additional $6,915,000 to build a large auditorium.
Vote ‘yes’ supporters were hoping for both questions to go through, but others say a new school isn’t the best choice financially.
On the snowy Tuesday afternoon, community members stood on the busy roads holding signs showing their school spirit.
“It’s really important that people get out and exercise their duty as a citizen regardless of what their vote is,” said Cloquet technology teacher Matt Winbigler.
He’s been teaching in the current middle school for 10 years and says the building’s old age brings challenges in the classroom.
When the polls opened Richard Colsen was one of the first to cast his vote.
“It would be great if we could have brand new schools what community wouldn’t want that?” said Colsen. “Whether or not we can afford it or not is another question.”
Colsen, along with vote ‘no’ advocates, believe the Cloquet district has enough debt to deal with, and building a new school isn’t financially smart.
“I don’t think we have any structural issues right now, a lot of cosmetic things,” Colsen said, while describing the middle school. “I think the middle school would probably get by for another 10 or 12 years.”
According to the school superintendent, $14 million is the price tag on small repairs to keep the 100 year old school up and running.
“We think with the interest rates going down the way they are right now is the time to bring this to the public to see if they want to continue with this project,” said superintendent Scarbrough.
If the vote passes, it’ll cost the average Cloquet taxpayer about $10 a month which vote no advocates believe is too much.
“Having 50 percent of the kids on free or reduced lunch kind of shows where the district as a whole is in the economy,” argued Colsen.
For the dedicated Lumberjack fans braving the winter storm on voting day, two yes votes and $10 a month is a small fee for a child’s future.
“A school is the heart of any community and Cloquet is a community that is deep rooted with their school,” said Winbigler.
Fox 21 will have the results as soon as they are released.