Community meeting

Crookston Public Schools hold community meeting ahead of $3.91 million referendum – Grand Forks Herald

CROOKSTON, Minn. — Crookston Public Schools held the second of four community meetings Wednesday night ahead of a $3.91 million referendum vote later this summer to fund a new multi-sport facility.

A small group of community members gathered in the auditorium of Crookston High School to learn more about the facility and, if approved, how much it will cost the community. The district will hold the referendum vote on Tuesday, August 9. The district is working with Zerr Berg Architects to plan the new facility, and in total the project is estimated at $3.9 million.

The multi-sport facility is planned for the district lands northeast of Crookston High School. The facility will include an artificial turf pitch, an eight-lane track, a press box, seating for 750 people, a concession stand and restrooms. The space could facilitate football, track and field, soccer and softball practices and competitions, as well as baseball practices. During the school day, physical education classes could use the facility.

“There is pride in all of this, and it would be fantastic for our students. Whether you’re an athlete or a student here in PE class, you’re going to be able to use this facility,” said future athletic director Nate Lubarski.

The school district currently uses Ed Widseth Field at the University of Minnesota Crookston for home and football games. In recent years, the facility has begun to deteriorate as the university has dropped a number of athletic programs including athletics and soccer.

The university system is unwilling to sell Ed Widseth Field, so if the district had to pay for field repairs, it would invest in property it does not own. If the district were to build a facility on district land, it could use long-term facility maintenance funding from the Minnesota Department of Education for future repairs to the facility. These funds are not available for facilities owned by other entities, such as Ed Widseth Field.

Some meeting participants expressed support for the district’s efforts to build its own facility.

“I personally want us to have a complex that has pirate logos, pirate names, and is part of our school district, not UMC,” Crookston School Board member Dave Davidson said. “I think it would make all the difference to our school environment and the way people look at us.”

Others criticized the district asking taxpayers for money for a new facility, especially with the cost of materials and interest rates. David Regeimbal, a local farmer, said he would not support the August referendum and questioned whether the $3.91 million bond would cover the cost of the project given inflation.

“Two years ago I was paying 99 cents a gallon for diesel fuel, now I’m paying $5 a gallon. I used to pay $300 a ton for fertilizer, now I pay $800 a ton,” Regeimbal said. “To me, it’s a bad time for you to ask anyone for more money with inflation at 8.5% and no end in sight.”

The total amount of the bond is estimated at 3.91 million dollars, to be paid over 12 years. According to Olson, for a residential property valued at $200,000, the annual tax increase from 2022 to 2023 would be $29. A commercial property valued at $250,000 would see an increase of $67. For farm properties, the bond would reduce the tax impact due to the Farm Credit for School Building Bonds, a Minnesota tax credit that reduces the property tax impact of school construction projects on agricultural properties.

Lubarski said the district is exploring possible sponsorships for the facility.

Jeremy Olson, Superintendent of Crookston, said so far the community has remained silent with opinions on the referendum.

“Inflation and some of the things that are happening in our country economically are what I would call a headwind, but I think our tailwind, though, is that we have a good reason why we’re trying to do what we do,” Olson said.

Prior to the August 9 referendum, there will be two more community meetings to discuss the referendum: Wednesday July 20 and Wednesday August 3. These meetings will both begin at 5:30 p.m. in the auditorium of Crookston High School.