I want to thank the citizens for filling out the survey that I sent to them two weeks ago. We received almost 630 responses back, which is around a 45 percent return rate. (The cost to do the survey was not even close to what was reported in a letter to the editor in last week’s edition.) This far exceeded what we typically get back from surveys.
The reason the survey was sent out was to try to find out what tax impact the community would support to help guide us on what our next step is for our school facility.
The results were clear. The majority of the people filling out the survey were 65 years or older and did not have children or grandchildren going to Moose Lake Community Schools. The majority of the people would support a tax increase for improving our facilities, but it would not be enough to build a new building.
My recommendation to the board is to remodel the high school and to fix some of the issues in the elementary. I believe that can be done with a modest tax increase.
Something significant would need to happen in order for the recommendation to change — the tax base would have to change, the demographics of the district’s residents would have to change, significant money from the state, or consolidation would be examples of things that would change my recommendation.
To address the question of whether we have let the school get run down, I would like people to know that the school district has not let it get run down. Our issue is that the school is aging and many big things need to be replaced in the near future. The question we have been dealing with is, "Is it more prudent to upgrade the building or to build new?”
The amount of money the state gives us per year does not come close to what needs to be done to upgrade the building. Each year we spend most of what the state gives us to keep the building in working order. The only thing that I know we have postponed is to redo the roofs. This was intentional, because to redo all the roofs on the school would cost just under a million dollars. We did not want to put that kind of money in the building if we were not going to be in the building for the long term.
We have set aside money to replace the roofs because we knew this was needed. I will be advising the board to follow our maintenance plan with the roofs and to start replacing the ones that are the worst. We repaired the roofs when needed, but they are all getting to the end of their expected life at the same time.
I agree with many of the comments that a building is not the reason for good academics. The drawback we run into is that money that could go towards things like technology, goes to fixing things that need repair. Our staff is what makes the difference and is why we do so well as a school district.
I know the board is very concerned with the tax impact the school would have on the community. People made many comments about how high taxes were in the survey. Moose Lake School District’s portion of the taxes is one of the lowest in the area. When people feel they have high taxes, it is not necessarily because of the school. We do a great job with the money we receive.
Our test scores, our arts program, and our athletics are shining examples of why it is good to be in Moose Lake Community Schools. We know the community supports the school, but cannot afford the taxes it would take to build new. We will alter our plans and move forward.