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Voters reject PLSAS tech levy by narrow margin

Prior Lake-Savage Area School District residents rejected a $35 million technology levy request on Tuesday, leaving PLSAS as one of the only neighboring and comparable school districts without a voter-approved technology levy.

Preliminary results from the Minnesota Secretary of State’s Office show that voters narrowly rejected the referendum with 49.3% voting yes and 50.7% voting no. The unofficial results were 3,496 yes versus 3,602 no — a 106-vote difference.

“I am sorry to report that voters did not approve our request for a technology levy with 49.3% voting yes and 50.7% voting no on the November 2, 2021 ballot,” Superintendent Teri Staloch said in a press release Tuesday night. “Needless to say, we are very disappointed, but determined to look to the future on behalf of our students.”

Voters rejected the request for a $3.5 million technology levy per year for the next 10 years. The technology levy funding would have helped PLSAS maintain and enhance technology learning, safety and support, according to the district.

Difficult

decisions aheadWithout a dedicated technology levy, district officials say the costs of technology equipment and staff will continue to put pressure on the general operating budget, competing for dollars required for other classroom and school needs.

“The request was not only in response to a range of increasing technology needs for our schools, but also due to increasing financial pressures from inadequate state funding and unfunded mandates,” Staloch said. “Without the funding this levy would have provided, we will have to make difficult decisions about competing priorities for both classroom and technology needs.”

PLSAS School Board Chair Stacey Ruelle said a dedicated funding source would have enhanced technology throughout the district in many areas.

“Having a dedicated source of funding for technology would have meant we would have been able to maintain and enhance technology for learning, safety and support in our schools,” Ruelle said in a press release. “With inadequate state funding, and coming off of two years of budget cuts in our district, we will now have to face some very difficult budget decisions.”

“Regardless of this outcome, we owe huge thanks to everyone who learned about the technology levy request, shared information with others and voted,” Staloch said.


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Savage City Council approves baseball facility for vacant land bordering wetland

A youth baseball club will construct a multi-field training complex in Savage under plans approved by city officials Monday.

MN MASH’s development plan calls for a 68,000-square-foot indoor training complex and two outdoor ballfields on a 13-acre property located to the west of Savage’s city campus, bordering the Savage Fen Scientific and Natural Area.

The club currently runs its activities from a facility in Eagan, which the Savage complex is set to replace.

The real estate being sold to the development is owned by Karl Bohn, the brother of Savage Mayor Janet Williams.

Despite some residents claiming her relationship to the landowner may be a conflict of interest, Williams participated in Monday’s discussion and vote on the project following consultation with the city attorney.

“I do not have a personal financial interest in my brother’s real estate and I may vote on this matter,” she said before contributing to the Savage City Council’s unanimous vote of approval.

“This is our dream,” Tom Buske, MN MASH’s chief executive officer, told the Savage Planning Commission during a public hearing last month.

Operations at the facility are set to include baseball programs for youth, collegiate and professional athletes and a host of other development opportunities for players.

Physical therapy, chiropractic and strength training services are also proposed to be offered at the facility.

Proponents of the development, including Savage Chamber of Commerce President Anne Masis, say the facility will bring families from across the metro to the Savage community and its businesses.

However, the development has also faced some opposition, mainly from nearby property owners who’ve raised concerns about traffic, noise and the facility’s potential impact on an extremely rare wetland community immediately north of the property.

“This project borders the Savage Fen Scientific and Natural Area, an extremely rare and sensitive natural resource that is home to many state-listed species,” Melissa Collins, a regional environmental assessment ecologist with the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources, wrote in an email to city staff.

The rarest find within the wetland complex is one of Minnesota’s largest remaining calcareous fen communities. The fen is home to one of the rarest native plant communities in the state, according to the DNR.

Over the decades, city staff have reviewed numerous development proposals for Bohn’s property to the south of the wetland, including plans for high-density housing.

Council praises project

During Monday’s meeting, the Savage City Council spoke highly of the project, while also expressing an ongoing commitment to protecting the fen.

Council members praised the development as an opportunity to bring something unique to the community, draw-in families from across the metro and support physical activity.

“I think it’s tremendous,” said Councilman Matt Johnson.

The development’s two-part construction schedule is set to begin this fall.


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