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FILE -- letter to the editor

I have been asked several times to explain my no vote on the upcoming referendum. I have not taken this lightly, and, after 50 years of working for our youth in this community, I find this to be a very difficult decision. Why this position?

First, I do not see the need for a high school based on the report from ATS&R. Read the building utilization report on the high school on pages 54-58 and notice that they list the number of times each room is used during the day. There are 135 classroom hours per day when the spaces are not used for instruction.

But the spaces are not what we need. They need to change, then repurpose and remodel the space. Need more outside space, complete the plan the Board of Education established and purchase the remaining property on the block and repurpose to meet current needs.

Second, the cost is not affordable for many in our community. The current mill rate for education next year is 8.62, a drop from 9.06. The need to meet the referendums will require an increase of 2.86 mills to pay the debt, according to the information sheet.

I would expect that the 2.86 mill rate will drop some as a result of the increase in equalized evaluation. Assume the drop to 2.5 mills and we will have a total mill rate of 11.12, or an increase of 29 percent, for education. This lasts for 20 years and is beyond what is reasonable to meet the educational needs we have, in my opinion, to serve our children.

Last, we have needs to improve our instructional space in the elementary and middle schools. The referendums are structured and linked so that to get the needs we have at the elementary and middle schools we have to vote to purchase land to build a new senior high.

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I will vote yes to meet the instructional needs of the elementary and middle school, but the high school, which is a large want and a small need, will have to stand on its own. I will vote no on both to send it back to the Board of Education.

Jerry Smith,

Chippewa Falls

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(5) comments

SRLaBelle

For me, there are many problems with the referenda questions, but the most glaring is the "new pool" concept..
A little research shows that it is exceedingly rare for the taxpayers to get hit up for these sorts of facilities in a district of this size with median incomes at the level of CFSD.
In Minnetonka, Mn., (Where our administrators spent time getting up to speed on ATS&R's "twenty first century education" designs),
The swim team is completely supported by a parent's group,
Capital costs for building and the $23,000/lane/year for staffing and maintaining the pools all supplied by private fund raising with no new property tax dollars..
(Pool maintenance costs link...
http://www.usaswimming.org/ViewMiscArticle.aspx?TabId=1755&Alias=rainbow&Lang=en&mid=7714&ItemId=3544)
We have plenty of examples of privately funded projects in the area, the Irvine park zoo expansion, Dorais Field, the $half-million donation for the new riverside park, even the Lake Wissota Yacht club... I just can't understand how the relatively small "new swimming pool, NOW!" boosters group managed to hijack the referendum process and bend it to their own purposes.
I think that it is a shame that a small special interest group, by trying to bake their parochial desires into the district's referendum recipe, have put the educational attainment of all the rest of the students at risk.
"Want a new roof?, sorry, no roof unless we get a diving pool!"
"You think you want more classroom space or a new Gym at Jim Falls?, sorry, no dice unless we get our new top of the line swimming pool funded by the property tax payers"
I think that the best bet, at this moment, is to say "no" to both referenda, go back to the drawing board, take a few months to clear the special interest players out of the mix, find a design build firm with more reasonable build out estimates, and
Come back to the voters in the spring with a more reasonably priced, more carefully targeted proposal..
The notion, which seems to come up at the "information sessions" and in private discussion with some of the chief architects of the referenda proposal, that they are asking for more money than needed and that there is a good chance that all the money won't be used just doesn't hold water for me.
When the administrators were tasked with securing the entrances in response to Sandy Hook, they bought new flagpoles...
I don't trust that the administration, no matter how well intentioned, has the gravitas to say "no" to the various special interest groups, venders and ATS&R, all of whom want us to spend every penny which we can beg, borrow or steal.
The one thing, about this whole process, which has surprised me, is how random the chances for a 50%+ 1 vote passage are, many people I talk to have no idea that there is a referendum on the ballot or what the particulars are.
This is really a $160 million roll of the dice.
If it passes, $10 million plus will apparently flow directly to ATS&R.
I want to thoughtfully spend money on our schools but I don't think that these referendum questions get the job done..

ChippewaStrong

SRLabelle,
Once again, you make some fair points that are worth discussing, but then you digress and continue to try and divide our community and attack people that you most likely do not even know. To make a comment like "new swimming pool, NOW!" boosters group managed to hijack the referendum process and bend it to their own purposes" could not be any further than the truth. Showing our community the cost of all the each option side-by-side is bending it to our own purpose? By asking the board to give voters an option at the poll equates to hijacking the referendum? I thought choices were part of our democratic system? Or comments like "Want a new roof, sorry unless we get a diving pool". Are you really that shallow minded? This has always been about meeting the space and conditions needs of our district.
How about we raise the level of our discussions above the presidential candidates and our political process in our country? Instead of name calling, finger pointing and false accusations, how about we work together as a community to solve our education needs. Let's set an example for our children and show them that we can disagree with different view points, but still be respectful to their ideas and to the person?
These are the people that will continue to make Chippewa Strong!

SRLaBelle

CS,
I only know what I read in the papers.
I think that this referendum issue (and most local politics) is nothing more than a modern day staging of the tragedy of the commons (an economic theory of a situation within a shared-resource system where individual users acting independently according to their own self-interest behave contrary to the common good of all users by depleting that resource through their collective action.)
I want property tax dollars, state and federal funds and the spending placed upon the community's collective credit card to serve the greater good.
I would rather use this money, the lifeblood of the community, to lift children from hopelessness into hope than to stroke the egos of the bureaucratic bourgeoisie or feather the nests of crony capitalists.



SRLaBelle

CS,
Could you point out exactly where I resort to "name calling"?
Do you actually consider referring to the small group which is calling for a new swimming pool, now... as the ""swimming pool, Now!" group"" to be "name calling"?
Can I refer to a group of people walking quickly as the "walking quickly group" or would be, unknowingly, unintentionally "name calling".
Could it be that you have become so comfortably secured within the bureaucracy and so convinced that your personal desires are actually community "needs" that you have lost sight of the forest for the trees?

WestHillBadger

I agree with Jerry Smith that our biggest needs are at the elementary and middle schools, not the high school. While the first referendum question does not include a pool, it does spend a lot of money on new gyms for Halmstad and Jim Falls. More importantly, the referendum would spend millions of dollars without addressing our biggest need, a second middle school. We have the third largest middle school in the state. A district our size should really have two middle schools so students can transition succesfully from the much smaller elementary schools to a large high school. If you were to build a second middle school and move fifth grade to the middle schools, it would address the space needs at the elementary schools as well. That is a referendum I would support.

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