Southern Door Sets $14.9 Million Project in Motion

After voters narrowly approved the Southern Door schools’ $14.9 million facilities-improvement referendum, district officials wasted no time preparing for construction. Both virtual and in-person meetings with planners for the project, including Bray Architects, took place in November. 

Superintendent Chris Peterson said work will begin as classes are wrapping up in the spring, and workers will tackle projects that will change and affect classrooms first. He said the goal is to complete improvements to art, agricultural science, family and consumer science, and technical education spaces before 2023-24 classes begin.

Peterson said groundbreaking should take place in late summer 2023 for the biggest of the projects: constructing an indoor, multipurpose training facility and relocating the district’s office into the current fitness-center rooms in the front of the school. He anticipates completing all the school projects by the beginning of the 2024-25 school year.

Voters approved the spending on capital improvements by a 2,220-2,139 vote Nov. 8.

“Lots of thanks and gratitude to our community for their support, and special thanks and gratitude to my colleagues for all of the effort and time they put in for presentations and outreach over the past several months,” Peterson said during the Nov. 14 board meeting.

Southern Door business manager Jason Melotte said the district is avoiding about $880,000 in interest payments by rapidly paying down old debt. As explained to voters prior to Election Day, the district made more than $2.8 million in early principal payments on old bonds, enabling it to take on new debt for the capital improvements without increasing the district’s tax rates.

Melotte said Southern Door schools will have a property-tax mill rate of $8.71 per $1,000 of taxable value next tax year – exactly the same as this tax year. In addition, the district will issue bonds as soon as possible and invest the sum to grow the funds prior to spending on the building improvements.