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Two school districts on the metro area's fringe will get major building upgrades after voters approved local tax increases at special elections held Tuesday.

In District 108 -- serving Norwood Young America and three neighboring cities -- 56 percent of voters approved spending to unearth an underground elementary school building and improve the heating and ventilation systems at the middle and high school complex. The vote tally was 571-440, according to Superintendent Brian Corlett.

About $3.8 million of the $10.2 million generated through additional taxes in District 108 will be used to essentially dig out an underground elementary school built in the early 1980s. District officials say the money will pay for windows, a new roof and excavation costs.

In Montgomery-Lonsdale, 61 percent of voters signed off on $29.7 million in upgrades, including an overhaul of the aging building that currently holds high school and middle school students. The special election drew 1,808 voters, with 1,106 approving the tax increase, said Superintendent Corey Lunn.

In that district, which is 40 miles south of Minneapolis, plans call for tearing down two of the oldest sections of the district's combined high school and middle school. The district will make major repairs to the rest of the building, transforming it into a facility for elementary and middle school students. High school students will move to an existing elementary school that the district plans to expand.

On a home valued at $175,000, the tax increase was estimated at $253 per year in Montgomery-Lonsdale.

In District 108, the owner of a home valued at $200,000, the median value in those communities, will pay $112 a year more in property taxes.

Both districts called the special elections after learning that they were among a handful statewide chosen to receive millions in savings on project interest costs through a federal stimulus program. This summer, the Minnesota Department of Education awarded both districts low- or no-interest bonding authority for their proposed construction projects. But to take advantage of the deal, voters had to sign off on the plans and the accompanying tax increases.

The prospect of higher taxes worries some residents, including Kathryn Newman, who said she opposed the increase sought in Montgomery. Deep in a recession, a couple hundred dollars is too steep for many families, she said: "That might be groceries. That might be the phone bill." • 952-882-9016 • 612-673-4488