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Public opinion differs at USC school meeting

July 15, 2012
by Lacey Sawatzky - Register Staff Writer , Faribault County Register

The United South Central School District hosted an informational meeting that left the public opinion split down the middle.

The first of six informational meetings available to the public was held on July 9 in the USC High School Hansen Auditorium in Wells.

The meeting was designed to elaborate on the school board's vision for a new kindergarten through 12th-grade facility.

Several audience members were upset that the school board has let the current facility get as bad as it has.

Superintendent Jerry Jensen presented many of the problems with the current building including electrical, heating, venting and plumbing issues.

"The funding for maintenence and repairs is set aside by the state,"?Jensen says. "We didn't just let the building go, we are just in a situation where we have to prioritize where our spending goes to provide a top quality education."

Other members from the public just didn't see how they would be able to pay the extra taxes on their property each year in order to make this project happen.

"We tried to get help through the State Legislature,"?Jensen says. "However, they said if they help us, other schools are going to be lined up right behind us asking for the same thing."

Jensen assured the public in attendance that the School Board is, and always has been, dedicated to providing a quality experience for the students with the funding they have available.

Although some members of the public were concerned with the cost, others were aware that something had to be done.

Audience members speaking in favor of the referendum had the future in mind.

The cost to just remodel and fix the current structure would be $19,655,000, while building a whole new facility would cost $28,825,000.

Not only does the current building have structural issues to be fixed, the School Board also recognizes the lack of opportunity for growth.

"The media centers we have just do not compare to other schools,"?Jensen adds. "We want positive experience for these students these are just inadequate."

The current gymnasium also raised safety concerns with the School Board.

Jim Wilson of SGN/Wendall architect firm attended the informational meeting, to answer any questions about the proposed building plans, should the referendum pass.

Benefits of the new building and new building site were explained by Wilson.

"At the proposed new location, there will be room for growth in the future," he says. "You are pretty landlocked in the current location."

One audience member wondered if the school board had looked into building in one of the different communities within the district.

"The farther out of town you go, the building costs may go down but the utility costs go up,"?Wilson says. "They end up washing each other out."

Jensen agreed and added that the other communities really didn't have the infrastructure to support the building for the USC school.

"A lot of the other communities didn't have 63 acres of land within city limits,"?he says.

Overall, the school board felt the area south of Wells was the best land for the best price.

Gary Olson of Ehlers Financial was also available for questions at the meeting.

He explained that with the interest rates as low as they are, this is an opportune time to do this rebuild.

The tax affect on citizens of the district will vary depending on the type of land and the value of your home.

According to the information packet sent to residents of the district, the owner of a home valued at $80,000 will pay an additional $128 a year on their taxes. The proposed bond will affect taxes for 19 years.

The informational packet goes into more detail with how taxes will be affected. For more detailed information, check out the chart in the brochure that was mailed out.

For a more exact figure or any questions, Olson encouraged citizens to call Ehlers Property Tax Hotline at (800) 552-1171 and ask to speak to a member of the Education Team.

The vote for the referendum will take place on Tuesday, Aug. 14.

"Citizens of the district are going to be affected, and people are going to need to decide how they are going to make this work," Jensen says. "Hopefully they can look at how much this will benefit the students in the future."

 
 

 

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