Levy opponents see plan as too costly, lacking detail

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For the past couple months an organized effort has been underway to gather support against a proposed $18.7 million Benson Public Schools building bond referendum. That vote is set to take place May 12.
Last Thursday night those opposed to the project conducted their third meeting to explain to supporters and the public why they believe the project is ill conceived and hasn’t been clearly explained to voters.
Acting as the spokesperson at the meeting in the Swift County Law Enforcement Center, Torning Township farmer Allen Saunders told the group of about 40 people gathered that the intent of the meeting was not to complain or attack anyone. He said those who had organized the meeting appreciated the work the school administrative and board members had done on the proposed building project, though they didn’t support it.
“Our concerns with the building project are with some of the buildings that get moved or set aside, and the cost,” Saunders said. “And as you know, if you are a landowner in District 777 most of that cost falls on ag land – 75 percent to 80 percent.” Landowners are questioning whether or not there is a more fair and equitable way to handle paying for the project, he said.
While Thursday night’s meeting had been opened up to the residents of the City of Benson, farmers and their families still heavily dominated the crowd.
The group handed out a “fact sheet” to those at the meeting laying out the reasons why it thinks people should vote against the levy referendum. Among those points:
- While the district is saying the building project will cost $18.7 million, it doesn’t take into account the cost of the interest on the bonds, which adds another $8.2 million to the cost over 20 years. That brings the total project cost to $26.9 million, they say.
This is a building project only. It provides no new money for curriculum, teachers or technology improvements, Saunders said.
- Ag land will pay 80 percent of the cost with residential property paying 10 percent and commercial property owners 10 percent. If farmland values fall, the percentages of who pays will change, shifting more of the burden onto residential and commercial property, they say.

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