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Readers’ Views

New school will not resolve operations budget deficit

To the Editor:

Citizens of Martin County West (MCW) school district, are you aware the MCW school board is planning to have another building bond referendum election on May 14, 2024? Are you aware the school board will be asking for a larger amount for a smaller sized school than in November 2023? Are you aware this will result in even higher property taxes than what was proposed last year?

The school board will need to vote to proceed with the May election before March 1st and will most likely vote at the next school board meeting scheduled for 6:30 p.m. Monday, Feb. 26, at Sherburn Elementary School. We would like to encourage every adult living in the district to come to this meeting. They will be asking us to vote on question one – building a new PreK-12 grade school at Sherburn for $64.7 million, for a school smaller in size than proposed last year. Additionally, on question two – an additional gym for about $2 million for a total package of $66.7 million.

The MCW School Board had been asked at both the November and December school board meetings to please assemble a task force to examine the needs and the viability of spending that much money at this time. They have also been asked to tour area schools where they chose to build additions and remodel existing structures rather than demolishing our structurally sound buildings. The requests were neglected and denied.

Please note that Martin County has released that the MCW School District currently has 162 children aged from birth to age 5 living in our school district which averages about 33 students per grade. The MCW School Board is still planning to build a new school that will have 2.5 sections per grade. Using the most recent projected enrollment, this will equal 13 students per classroom in the future. We do not need and cannot afford a new school this large. Unfortunately, the student population of Martin County West School District is rapidly declining.

MCW currently receives about $7500 per student in state revenue. Current MCW enrollment is about 630 students. With projected enrollment, within 5-6 years we would be down to 429 students. That would be a $1.7 million decrease in the state aid. We cannot afford a new school this large. For fiscal year 2022-23, MCW had a $579,372 fund balance deficit as reported by the MN Department of Education. The projected MCW School District operations budget is $600,000 deficit and there has been no communication from the administration or School Board suggesting how to balance the budget other than spending $66.7 million on a new school building that may result in $1.3 million operations savings. Constructing a new school will not resolve the operations budget deficit.

If the proposed referendum passes, we would not realize savings until 2027, resulting in deficit spending for over 4 years. We also must consider the $7.7 million in payments until 2035, for the HVAC system in a building the school board plans to demolish or sell.

If you have a comment about this please contact the MCW District Office at (507) 764-2330 and request to speak at this upcoming school board meeting. You must file a request to speak by this Friday, Feb. 23. Your voice needs to be heard now.

Robin Carlson, President along with other officers of the MCW Care Committee

Trimont

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