Wednesday, November 18, 2009

ISD 108 Superintendant Corlett visits Hamburg to discuss $10.2M bond referendum

District residence, for years schools have waited for expansion and updates instead of planning for them by setting aside a portion of the budget year over year. Last night the hamlet of Hamburg had an opportunity to ask questions, voice concerns, and get more information on the bond referendum for the Central School District. About 10 people showed up to listen to Superintendant Brian Corlett explain the reasoning behind the bond referendum. The expectation is that the school district will see a 500 student influx over the next 5 to 7 years and to ensure that the school district can continue to offer smaller class sizes whiling making the elementary school and middle/high school viable for the next 30 years updates are required according to Superintendant Corlett.

The $10.2M bond referendum, at a 0% interest rate, will enable the district to make updates to both schools to meet the influx demand and maintain the competitive advantage smaller class sizes offers Central School District students. The proposed budgets, established by architect Paul Youngquist (I apologize to Paul in advanced if I misspelled his last name or missed it all together), is for $3,899,800 to go to the elementary school and $6,355,000 allotted to the middle/high school. In the voter information packet an architect drawing shows an unearthed and expanded elementary school. Voters beware that the bond referendum does not provide for an expansion of the elementary school. When asked about expansion of the elementary school, Superintendant Corlett indicated that there was nothing allocated for expansion nor does the school board have plans to expand the elementary school.

When the discussion moved toward the middle/high school an interesting revelation occurred; the middle/high school is comprised of six different additions that have creating challenges to heat/cool and properly ventilate the school. Although the district has not been warned or fined by the State due to poor ventilation, Superintendant Corlett feels that the updates are needed to drive efficiencies and modernize both schools. Plus, there is a perception that an underground elementary school contains poor air quality even though every test performed, according to Superintendant Corlett, has shown the "air quality inside is better than the air quality outside."

The meeting lasted just over an hour and fifteen minutes. When pressed about the budget and what actions are being done to create a "raining day" fund so in 15 years the school district does not have to come back to the public for more money, the answer was the flat lining of the budget from the State and the potential that 27% of the budget may be held by the State next year. Another budget concern raised is the retirement benefits that the district will need to account for in the near future. An interesting observation of the meeting is that nearly all those in attendance appeared to be comfortable with the notion of the bond referendum and an increase in property tax. Evidence of this observation was the comment of "0% interest rate" being the key selling point of one attendee.

After the meeting I chatted privately with Superintendant Corlett and an invitation was extended to me to look over the budget as one of my concerns is why the district hasn't set aside money for the past 15 years. No further public sessions are planned but Superintendant Corlett said an article will be coming out in the Norwood Times, which only about 25% of school district residence subscribe to, and he plans to update his blog as well. While I am on the fence as how to vote, I encourage all residence within the school district to learn more about the referendum prior to voting. Information is available at www.central.k12.mn.us/bond
but don't settle for that information.
Another opportunity to get answers is on November 23rd when the school board meets again.
According to the ISD 108 Board of Education Goals for 2007-2008 and beyond (http://www.central.k12.mn.us/District/board.html) is to “Develop a comprehensive long-range facility plan for District 108.” While we cannot reverse the sands of time, I am curious as to what budgetary elements of the comprehensive plan exist to mitigate the chance of the Board coming back to District residents in the future for further referendums. If smaller class sizes are not driving the 100 or so residence that live in the northern segment of Cologne to Central then why are they choosing Waconia? I encourage all residents to become more involved and hold the Board more accountable for their actions or non-actions. Remember that the vote is December 1, 2009.