Strong Start. Secure Schools.
Tuesday, November 6, marks an extremely important decision point for the Northfield community.
You will be asked to invest in Northfield School District children by voting on a bond referendum. The referendum focuses on the earliest learners and would set them on a course that would change their lives. It also aims to provide students with a safer learning environment.
» Read the District’s response to the negative community-wide mailing received by most residents on October 16.
Join Us for an Info Session
Information sessions will be provided as an opportunity to tour Greenvale Park Elementary and discuss the proposed changes. All sessions will be held at Greenvale Park (700 Lincoln Parkway, Northfield).
September 17, 7–8:30 p.m.
October 1, 7–8:30 p.m.
October 13, 10–11:30 a.m.
October 29, 7–8:30 p.m.
About the Bond Referendum
At its core, the $41 million proposed bond referendum would provide space and enhanced security measures to ensure Northfield’s tradition of reaching every student and providing the highest quality education continues. The anticipated tax increase on the average Northfield home is $27 per year, or $2.25 per month. *Download a property tax impact table or use the interactive tool below to estimate how the proposed referendum would affect your property taxes.
Early Childhood & Elementary Education Impact
Enhanced and expanded early childhood education is important to ensuring students are on the right track from the very beginning, regardless of their background, socioeconomic status, or learning differences.
- ACCESS TO PRESCHOOL – In recent years, we’ve noted that there are more and more children entering kindergarten without any preschool experience. The community’s approval of the bond referendum would remove barriers to accessing early childhood education and double the number of early childhood education programs available to families.
- NEW ELEMENTARY SCHOOL – The proposed bond referendum would construct a new elementary school and convert the current Greenvale Park Elementary building into an early childhood education center.
- EXISTING ELEMENTARY SCHOOL RENOVATIONS – Improvements would be made at Bridgewater and Sibley to respond to the growing number of students enrolling in the District.
- GROWING STUDENT BODY – We have experienced an influx of 175 more students than projected since 2015 – a five percent increase in our student population. Current projections show an additional 60-student increase over the next two years. The proposed renovations and enhancements would ensure we’re able to serve a growing student body and provide learning spaces where they can thrive.
SCHOOL SECURITY IMPACT
Equipping our buildings with enhanced security measures and expanded space is essential to providing our children with secure learning environments where they can thrive.
- ALLEVIATE THE GREENVALE PARK SECURITY RISK – The classrooms at Greenvale Park Elementary are not sufficient for elementary instruction. The completely open concept design can be distracting for learners and poses a security risk. A new elementary building would create learning spaces that allow our children to reach their full potential.
- RE-PURPOSING GREENVALE PARK ELEMENTARY – The challenge of securing a multi-purpose early childhood education space that serves pre-K learners is distinctly different from securing a school with elementary-aged children. With modest modifications – like a secure front entrance and biometric entry options – we are confident we can put measures in place to safeguard our youngest learners and make good use of an existing facility.
- SECURITY MEASURES – In all of our spaces, we pledge to implement and maintain common sense security measures that offer a safe, welcoming environment for all of our learners.
- AVOID LARGER CLASS SIZES – If the bond referendum is unsuccessful, we would not be able to adequately address concerns our community has raised regarding class sizes. Our children at Greenvale Park Elementary would remain in a building that isn’t as secure as it should be and doesn’t provide an environment that supports them in doing their very best.
- Where And When To Vote
Election Day: Tuesday, November 6, 2018
Polls Open: 7:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m.
Find Polling Place
All District residents will vote at their regular polling places on Election Day.
Absentee voting begins on September 21, 2018. Absentee voting can be done by mail or in person, as follows:
- City of Northfield residents will be able to vote in person absentee at Northfield City Hall.
- Anyone who lives within ISD 659 and in Rice County will be able to vote in person absentee at Northfield City Hall or through Rice County. (Note: Northfield City Hall does not have township ballots for Dakota County township precincts.)
- Everyone who lives within ISD 659 in Dakota County townships (Castle Rock, Eureka, Greenvale, Sciota and Waterford) may vote in person absentee at the Dakota County Service Centers located in Apple Valley, Hastings, and West St. Paul.
- Everyone who lives within ISD 659 in Goodhue County (Warsaw Township and City of Dennison) may vote in person absentee at Goodhue County.
For further information about absentee voting and other information about elections, see the following websites:
- Ballot Language“Shall the board of Independent School District No. 659 (Northfield Public Schools) be authorized to issue its general obligation school building bonds in an amount not to exceed $40,975,000 to provide funds for the acquisition and betterment of school sites and facilities, including the construction and equipping of a new elementary school facility; the construction of additions to and renovations of the Bridgewater and Sibley Elementary School sites and facilities; the construction of renovations and improvements to the Longfellow School; and the construction of renovations and improvements to the Greenvale Park Elementary School to convert that facility for use as an early childhood center?”
Frequently Asked Questions
Frequently asked questions about the bond referendum are listed by theme below. If you have a question that is not covered here, please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
- About The Vote
Didn’t we just vote and approve funding for the school district last year?
Last year, with the community’s support, the operating levy was passed. Levies, which are focused on learning, help the district strengthen its budget for years to come and provide the sustainability necessary to support our programming.
A bond referendum authorizes a district to sell bonds that provide funding for new construction, renovations, and/or equipment. The bond referendum we’re proposing on this year’s ballot is focused on improving and enhancing buildings in the District to create suitable, secure learning environments where our children can thrive.
Could these problems be resolved by reconsidering boundaries?
Reconsidering school boundaries would not fix the security inadequacies of Greenvale Park Elementary nor space inadequacies of all of the elementary schools.
- Enrollment Growth
Why do we need to be concerned about growing enrollment?
Growing enrollment is a reality. Enrollment has grown by 175 more students than projected since 2015. It is slated to grow by another 60 students over the next two years. With this growth, the District is faced with limited space to serve the influx of students. The proposed renovations and enhancements would ensure we’re able to accommodate a growing student body and provide learning spaces where they can thrive.
Will the new elementary school be big enough for growth?
The new Greenvale Park Elementary would be constructed in a way to welcome more students than are currently served. The new elementary school would provide room for up to 16% more students than are currently served.
- Improvement Costs
How much is the bond? What does the referendum include?
The district is asking to bond for $40.975 million. The referendum is aimed at the earliest learners. It looks to:
- Construct a new elementary school on the Greenvale Park campus
- Convert the current Greenvale Park Elementary into an early childhood education center
- Make improvements at Bridgewater, Sibley, and Longfellow
- Relocate the District Office to Longfellow, allowing for the high school to expand into the space currently being used as the District Office
How much will taxes increase?
Although this referendum does require an increase to area property taxes, we’re utilizing a bond strategy that reduces the short-term tax impact.
In 2019, on a $250,000 Northfield residential property, we anticipate a tax increase of $27 per year, or $2.25 per month. You can estimate your individual tax impact here.
Why is the tax impact of this bond referendum so much less expensive than last year?
Part of the reason is that the proposed bond amount is much smaller — $40.975 million this year, or about 38% of the proposed $109 million last year. But the estimated tax impact of this year’s proposed bond on a $250,000 home is only $27 per year, or less than 10% of the estimate of $296 with last year’s bond question.
The rest of the reason gets into some fairly complex information about how payments on the bonds would be structured. After hearing from many voters last year that they were concerned about their property taxes, the District challenged our financial advisers at Ehlers, Inc. to explore options that would minimize the increase in property taxes over current levels. After reviewing several options, the School Board chose an option (illustrated in the table and graph below) that greatly reduces the tax increase in the first two years, while taxpayers are still paying relatively high taxes for our existing debt. To do this, the District would use approximately $2.6 million from the new bonds to finance most of the interest payments in the first two years. After the first two years (when the Bridgewater Elementary bonds are paid off), the District would start paying principal on the new bonds, but because payments on the existing bonds will decline substantially beginning with 2021 taxes, there would be no further increase in total debt service taxes at that time. Total debt service taxes would go down in 2024 when the existing Middle School bonds are retired, though not as much as they would if the voters decline the proposed bond referendum on the 2018 ballot. This commonly used financing strategy increases the bond amount by two percent (2%) but decreases the burden on taxpayers by 79% in the first two years.
We should note that this strategy would not have worked as effectively with a bond issue of $109 million, but it works very effectively with a bond issue of $40.975 million. After much deliberation and discussion with Ehlers, Inc., the board was convinced that this strategy would be fiscally responsible in the long term while greatly reducing the burden on current taxpayers.
- Early Childhood
What is early childhood education?
In Northfield, early childhood education includes:
- Early childhood and family education (ECFE)
- Early childhood special education (ECSE)
- EarlyVentures, the District’s licensed childcare program
Why is early childhood education so important?
Early education and early learning initiatives are important to ensuring high-quality education and setting students on successful paths to lifelong learning. By intervening at an early age, we’re able to ensure students are on the right track from the very beginning, regardless of background, socioeconomic status, learning deficits, or other differences.
Return on Investment
Studies continually show the positive long-term effects of high-quality early education, including significant returns on investment. Recent reports show that there is a $17 return to society for every dollar invested in early childhood education programs in Minnesota.
Early childhood education plays a key role in preparing children to reach critical academic readiness benchmarks, including being ready for kindergarten and meeting third grade reading level expectations.
- Building Projects & Timeline
Why does Greenvale Park Elementary need to be replaced?
The current layout of Greenvale Park Elementary is not sufficient for today’s elementary education learning. The completely open concept design can be distracting to learners and poses a security risk. A new elementary school on the current Greenvale Park campus would create workspaces that allow our children to reach their full potential and provide a space to consolidate all early childhood and community education programs into one facility.
What about the high school?
We’ve heard the community’s concerns about the high school, and we are working to match our needs. We cannot resolve all of the District’s building needs at once. We’ve put other fiscal tools to use to maintain and improve the facility for the near future, address the most significant security issues, create flexible learning spaces, and make repairs to ensure maintenance isn’t deferred.
If the bond is passed, what would be the timeline for the building projects?
If the bond issue passes, the District anticipates engaging in a design phase on the projects in the following manner:
- New elementary school on Greenvale Park campus: November 2018–May 2019
- Bridgewater Elementary, Sibley Elementary, and Greenvale Park Early Childhood Center: May–October 2019
The projects would then be published for bidding with construction anticipated to take place:
- New elementary school on Greenvale Park campus: July 2019–July 2020 (Occupancy August 2020)
- Bridgewater Elementary, Sibley Elementary, and Greenvale Park Early Childhood Center: March–July 2020 (Occupancy August 2020)
What about security?
Enhancing security measures for staff, students, and visitors to our buildings is a top priority, and the proposed bond would help us significantly improve security measures. This is essential to providing our children with secure learning environments where they can thrive. If the bond referendum passes, each school building within the District would have a secure front entrance.
Review and Comment
The Minnesota Department of Education has given its highest level of endorsement for these projects, providing a “Positive Review and Comment.” This document will be presented publicly at the September 24, 2018, School Board Meeting.