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OV district budget approved, but school upgrade was defeated

BRANDON — On Tuesday, the voters in the Otter Valley Unified Union School District defeated a bond measure of $2.93 million for safety, security and operational improvements. Voters did, however, approve a school district budget of $19,935,847, which represents a 3.7 percent increase in total spending over last year and a 2.7 percent per equalized student increase.
It was the second time in the past five months voters rejected a bond to improve safety at district school entrances, as well as structural improvements. A $5.5 million bond was narrowly defeated in November by a count of 1827-1913. After that vote, however, district residents stated they felt the board had not been upfront with voters when they called the measure a safety and security bond, yet included several general improvements, like a new gymnasium at Neshobe Elementary and restoring a balcony at the Lothrop Elementary School.
The board listened to those complaints, however, and presented a new bond that was nearly half of the total amount of the November bond. Low turnout may have doomed this second effort as the vote failed to pass, 759-597; more than two thousand votes less than voted this past November. The district school budget passed by a relatively close count of 707-622.
“I am pleased to see the school budget passed and I want to thank the voters for continuing to support the kids,” RNESU superintendent Jean?e Collins said. “While I am, of course, disappointed in the bond vote going down, I understand that it does add to the tax load and I appreciate all who did support it, even if they could not vote in the affirmative. The newly organized board will discuss next steps, if any, they wish to take to secure our school entrances in the near future.”
A dozen residents from the OVUUSD towns of Brandon, Leicester, Whiting, Goshen, Sudbury and Pittsford showed up at the OVUUSD annual meeting on Feb. 27 to hear the presentation on the budget and ask questions about the bond. Of the bond vote, school board members explained several aspects of the project, including the following elements at each school:
•  Lothrop Elementary plans included renovating a classroom for the front office, waiting area, and school nurse space. Work was also slated to renovate the balcony in the Lothrop Town Hall Building to meet safety regulations, while also allowing the space above the gym to be fully used. The total cost for the work at Lothrop was $194,000.
•  At the Neshobe and Forestdale School buildings the board planned to construct a connection link between the two buildings, creating a new front entrance with a security airlock system. This would have also relocated the main office and the nurse’s office. Due to where the connection link was to be built in the two schools, several classrooms would have to be relocated to the other side of the school because the link would be going through the existing classes. The cost for this project was $2,015,000.
•  At Otter Valley Union High School plans were to redesign the existing front door airlock and add a School Resource Officer space near the front doors, which would have created a secure waiting area at the main entrance. Because the OV project would have been working on the existing wall of the bathrooms, the board decided it would be an opportune time to renovate the lobby bathrooms for ADA accessibility and gender neutrality. The OV project cost was $725,000. Because of bidding regulations and the school schedule, work was not expected to begin until the summer of 2020.
MEMBERS ELECTED
In the only contested school board race, Derek Larsen defeated Mike Lufkin. Jon Rasmussen, Barbara Ebling and Bonnie Chmielewski were all re-elected to their seats unopposed. Bill Mathis was elected to an open Goshen representative seat by write-in votes.

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