News Local/State

Referendum Defeat Is End Of The Line For Proposed New Monticello High School

Architect;s rendering of a proposed new Monticello High School, part of the bond referendum proposal rejected by voters on Tuesday.

Architect's rendering of a proposed new Monticello High School, part of the bond referendum proposal that voters rejected on Tuesday. Monticello Unit School District 25

Tuesday’s defeat of a high school bond referendum in the Monticello school district marks the 2nd time in two years that voters have rejected the proposal. And district superintendent Vic Zimmerman says they won’t be asking them a third time.

Zimmerman says a higher voter turnout and concerns about the state budget impasse may have affected the outcome of Tuesday’s referendum vote. But he says it’s also clear that a majority of voters in Unit 25 simply didn’t support the $40.9 million dollar bond proposal.

Zimmerman says he thinks the proposal to build a new high school next to the current middle school --- and consolidate elementary grades at the old high school campus --- was their best shot at a long-term facilities plan. But since the voters disagree, it’s time to move on to addressing the district’s facility needs in other ways.

“When it’s all said and done, we still have four very old school buildings in our school district”, said Zimmerman. “We still need to have a long-term facility improvement plan. And we’ll take a step back and see what our board and community will consider going forward in the future.”

Zimmerman says the district will now look at ways to renovate the district’s current buildings, particularly its high school. He says renovations could be done incrementally, and could range from a “face-lift” to a tear-down and rebuilding of various buildings or sections of buildings.

The chairman of a group formed to promote the bond referendum says he’s disappointed by its defeat. Scott Burnsmeier of Students First for Monticello Bond Issue says the facilities plan wasn’t just a matter of constructing buildings, but also included a land swap agreement with the city of Monticello. Under that agreement, Monticello would have taken over the Lincoln Elementary School building, and use its gym for a community recreation center. But Burnsmier says the defeat of the referendum makes that agreement “null and void”.

Supt. Zimmerman says the Monticello school board will review the voter rejection of Tuesday’s referendum at their March 30th meeting --- but that work on a renovation plan will continue over the next few months.

The Monticello high school bond referendum failed on a 2597-2003 vote Tuesday, with about 56% of voters casting “no” ballots, and with the “no’s” outnumbering the “yes’s” in every precinct.  A similar referendum was rejected in November, 2014, on a vote of 2344-1977.

The chairman of a group formed to campaign for the referendum says its defeat will have a ripple effect with the city of Monticello. Scott Burnsmier of Student First For Monticello Bond Issue says the plan called for the school district to hand over the building housing Lincoln Elementary School to the city, which would use its gym for a recreation center. But he says those plans are now “null and void”.