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Gov. Dayton signs bill that provides disaster relief funding to Rushford-Peterson School District

RUSHFORD, Minn. (FOX 47) -- After suffering from a disastrous flash flood back in 2007, the Rushford-Peterson school district, is now seeing its silver lining.

A bill signed by Governor Dayton will provide funding for the school, that may make some long-needed projects a reality.

"It was called a 100 year flood and it started raining and never stopped," says district superintendent, Chuck Ehler.

As Rushford-Peterson high school seniors look back the flood, they say it has created an image that will forever be emblazoned on their minds.

"It was a very long process," says senior, Emma Malone. "Emotions were everywhere trying to get back into school. We didn't know if school was going to start on time."

"I'll always remember the flood because I was a lot younger, I was terrified," says senior, Seth Thompson. "I thought it could happen again. I hope it never happens again but it's definitely something I'll always remember."

The good news now, if that were to ever happen again, the new Omnibus Education Bill signed by Governor Dayton would give the school district debt equalization aid to offset millions of dollars in costs for a 20-year loan.

After the flood, the Rushford-Peterson School District tried to pass a bond referendum to build a new school in 2002 and 2012.  Both years were unsuccessful with voters.

"The impact on our community would be in excess of a 50 percent increase in school taxes," explains Ehler. "By going through the debt equalization, the impact will be somewhere in the neighborhood of between 23 and 25 percent, which is almost half."

With the huge offset of annual debt cost incurred by the flood damages, the district is taking a huge step forward after a long journey with state lawmakers to get here.

"We're excited for that possibility, and again, we understand this is just step one," says Ehler. "Step two is going to convince our voters that this is something that will be beneficial for the school district long term."

The district has championed a huge success for schools impacted by natural disasters everywhere, but the future of its own goals is in the hands of voters.

Officials at Rushford-Peterson Schools say this bill is nothing short of a miracle.  The district will hold a referendum vote again on General Election Day, November 4.
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