Referendum failed by 26 votes on November 8

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The Henning School building referendum featuring a new entrance failed to get a majority of voters approval on Nov. 8. The Henning School Board is discussing its options for buildings needs, including a potential second referendum vote next year. 

By Chad Koenen


The Henning School District could head back to voters to seek a special building referendum for a second time as soon as next year.

During a special work session, which followed its regularly scheduled meeting last Monday night, the Henning School Board heard from representatives from ICS about the November 8 election and discussed what steps it could take to address building needs and a potential expansion.

The two-part referendum question, which could have totaled approximately $27 million for building maintenance and expansion, failed  to garner a majority of school district support. 

The first question would have allocated $21.7 million for improvements to indoor air quality, proper ventilation, updating elementary classrooms, a new high school gym floor, new staging equipment for the choir and band, changing the entrance to the back of the school to be more secure, relocating the administrative offices to the central part of the building and deferred maintenance for things like tuck pointing. 

  A total of 859 people voted against the first question, while 833 people voted in favor of the measure. 

  The second question would have spent $4.6 million to construct a new high school gym that would be used for sporting and community events, as well as more extensive updates to rest rooms and additional roof replacements.

  A total of 876 people voted against the second question, while 785 people voted in favor the measure.

In all, 1,692 people out of 2,112 registered people cast a vote for the first part of the question in what was termed a large voter turnout. 

“It was a high voter turn out,” said Lori Christensen of ICS. “You didn’t miss it by much. To me what I see with that is you really did have a great plan out there.”

School board member Deb Hart said one thing that really stuck out to her was the amount of no votes in the City of Henning. She said if just 13 of those votes were changed from no to yes, the first question would have passed. A total of 133 people voted against the first question in Henning, while 142 voted against the second question in the city of Henning. 

School board member Rod Thalmann said the school district will also need to look at Leaf Lake Township and try to convince additional residents in that township to support the referendum. The referendum failed in Leaf Lake Township by a 129-171 margin for the first question and a 121-179 margin for the second question. 

School board chair Reed Reinbold said the school district will also need to clear up some misinformation that was spread in the region concerning the referendum and school finance. He said it is important for residents to know the differences in general operating levies and school building levies and clear up any misinformation in the public about how the building improvements would affect the school district. 

Other discussions centered around whether to seek a similar school building referendum, change the two questions completely, or ask the voters to support a single school building levy as opposed two breaking it into two questions.

The school board said it will discuss the potential school building levy referendum at its December school board meeting.

If the school board opted to seek a special election it would be able to do so on April 11, May 9, August 8 or November 7 next year. The election could be held in a single combined polling place, like the City of Henning office, as opposed to each polling location throughout the school district.  

In other news

• Accepted the following donations from the Adopt a Classroom totaling $9,025: Amundson Insurance, Auto Fix, B&D Foods, BigFoot Gas and Grocery, Citizen’s Advocate, Curt Anderson, Don and Mary Seipkes, Doug and Diane Thorson, First National Bank, Good Shepherd Lutheran Church, Greg and Gail Froslee, Henning Medical Clinic, Henning Senior Citizens, Henning Women’s  Reading Club, In Front Ag, Lee and Ruth Amundson, Ottertail Clinic, Ottertail Lions Club, Roland and Janice Saetre, St. Edward’s Catholic Church, St. Paul’s Lutheran Church, TNT Repair, Tri-County Hospital, Vining Lutheran Church Women, David and Elizabeth Achten, Randy and Karen Dorow, JoAnn and Gary Eckhoff, Henning Area Christian Fellowship, Alexis Krebs, Markuson-Baer Insurance, Gary and Sheryl Misegades, Our Home Your Home, Pro Ag, Alan and Becky Sadowsky, Scotty’s Upholstery, Golden Harvest Seeds, Tommy Stiles, Dean and Marie Trosdahl, Jack Skjegstad, Dan and Sue Zapf, and Wayne and Gail Guse. 

• Accepted the donation of TIAA beneficiary proceeds from Roger Melvoid totaling $51,022.87. 

• Approved the hiring of Ida Rogers Ferguson as c-squad girls basketball coach from Jan. 2, 2023 through the end of the season. She was also hired as JV softball coach. 

• Heard that five candidates were interviewed for the position of Otter Tail Central head softball coach and Heather Akerman of Battle Lake was recommended as the next head coach. 

• Heard that Staples-Motley and Park Rapids have approached the Park Region Conference about potentially submitting a formal application to the conference in all sports. According to a report by activities director Randy Misegades, nothing formal has been submitted and the discussions were just preliminary at this time. 

• Approved the contract of Henning School Principal Thomas Williams from July 1, 2022 through June 30, 2024. The new contract calls for a salary increase of 1 percent in the first year and 1.5 percent in the second year. 

• Accepted the resignation of Mark Oscarson as OTC junior high baseball coach. 

• Approved the annual World’s Best Workforce report as presented to the school board. The report is a report card of sorts based on goals set by the school district for everything from education to career planning in the school district. 

• Heard an update on parent-teacher conferences, which showed that 180 of a potential 186 conferences were held in the preschool through fifth grade, with five additional conferences scheduled at the time of the school board meeting. For grades 6-12, a total of 95 of 193 potential conferences were held. Of the 95 conferences held, a total of 85 of them were student-led conferences.