Monticello school board OKs third try at renovations referendum

Monticello school board OKs third try at renovations referendum

MONTICELLO — Voters in the Monticello school district will cast ballots on a $29.8 million referendum question next March that would fund renovations at the high school/Washington Elementary school campus. School board members on Wednesday voted to place the issue on the March 20 ballot, which will be the district's third referendum try in five years.

But unlike the past two questions, this one is not asking voters to fund construction of a new high school building. Instead, if approved, the project would construct a new gymnasium and add 12 new classrooms to the Washington Elementary structure, add new science labs to the east of the high school and perform renovations throughout the remainder of that building, which has an original construction date of 1923.

Monticello Superintendent Vic Zimmerman said updated facilities are the missing link for a district that has fund reserves, a low tax rate and high student achievement.

"As a superintendent, when I look at the district, our financials are solid, our kids do well on their standardized tests, they go to college, they do well on the ACT, our teachers do a great job, our families are supportive. Our athletics and music and activities do great," he said. "The only thing that's left is facilities, and I think our students deserve better facilities. I think our parents deserve better facilities. This is a proud community. They've got a great tradition of educational excellence, and what's left is improving the facilities that haven't been improved for 50 to 100 years."

After a second referendum for a new high school was defeated in the spring of 2016, the school board began researching a plan that emphasized a remodel rather than new construction. Input was also gathered from a community committee, with several of its proposals incorporated into the current plan.

If approved, the added classrooms at Washington would allow the district to close an aging Lincoln Elementary facility, constructed in 1911. Four of Monticello's five buildings have original build dates between 1894 and 1923. The middle school was built in 2003.

Zimmerman said the estimated tax impact on the owner of a $175,000 home would be about $13 per month. The renovation would cost approximately $10 million less than ones in the past to construct a new high school.

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