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LP-A Board rallies behind $19.5M referendum

AUDUBON - Lake Park-Audubon residents will likely weigh in on a plea for school renovation funds for the fifth time in roughly three years this November.

The School Board voted unanimously Monday to submit a $19.5 million bond referendum for state Department of Education approval. Six members attended; Rick Olson was absent.

After an occasionally heated discussion, board members rallied behind a proposal that shaves almost $7 million from last December's referendum, which voters narrowly rejected. The district would score a new $17 million high school on donated land in Lake Park and about $2.5 million worth of pressing upgrades at the Audubon elementary school.

Board members deemed it an imperfect compromise.

"I think we're doing the best thing possible after looking at alternatives that lower the cost and still address our most significant needs," said Chairwoman Vicky Grondahl. "I think this is a natural step we need to go forward."

School District critics have denounced the new proposal as a slight to Audubon, which had an uneasy consolidation with neighboring Lake Park in the late 1990s.

They brush off the argument that each school serves students from both communities and insist a new $17 million high school to house 300 students at a time of declining enrollments is an extravagance.

"They didn't really cut the cost," said district resident George Kohn, who predicted the savings won't win over longtime "no" voters. "All they did was cut 6 million out of the Audubon side of the equation."

The "no" group suggested spending $3 million on repairs in Audubon only, a proposal Superintendent Dale Hogie said wouldn't pass Education Department muster in light of more urgent repair needs at the high school. Several referendum opponents stormed out after the Monday board vote.