The West Salem School Board voted to hold its third referendum in three years during the February primary at Monday night’s meeting.

Unlike the last two building referendums, the school district won’t be asking voters for additional funding this time around. Instead, the district will seek permission to use $1.5 million leftover from the under budget middle school project to complete the over-budget multipurpose athletic facility and to complete an expansion to the district’s automotive building.

Superintendent Troy Gunderson said when planning these projects ahead of the November 2016 election, the board overestimated the cost of the building project but underestimated the cost of the multipurpose athletic facility. As a result the middle school project came in roughly $1.5 million less than anticipated; meanwhile, the 41,500-square-foot athletic facility is approximately $1 million over budget.

Gunderson said because these projects were approved as separate questions during the election the district couldn’t use the $1.5 million surplus without permission from district residents.

School Board Vice President Tom Grosskopf said the district is only asking voters for permission to use money from one project on another.

The district plans to use the remaining $500,000 to construct a 2,500-3,800-square-foot extension to the district’s automotive center. This would make room for an additional vehicle lift and a new air compressor.

The district’s automotive vocational training program, which offers students the opportunity to work with local dealerships to gain experience as auto or diesel mechanics, has become a popular course that attracts students from all over the Coulee Region.

The board briefly considered asking voters for additional funding for the automotive center, but many on the board, including board members Grosskopf and Ken Schlimgen, felt the district should avoid confusing the issue with additional borrowing.

“We’ve got a more positive outcome with the community if we stick with $1.5 million,” Grosskopf said.

The resolution passed 5-1. Board member Catherine Griffin voted against the resolution.

Because the district isn’t seeking additional funding, the referendum isn’t expected to increase the tax rate. Gunderson said that regardless of whether the referendum passes, taxpayers will end up paying roughly $3 million less in interest over the next 20 years.

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Coulee Courier reporter

Tobias Mann is a reporter with the River Valley Media Group. He can be reached at tobias.mann@lee.net or at 608-791-8216.

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