Submitted by Chuck Lefebvre
Take the time to familiarize yourself with the facts and vote on the February 7th STMA bond referendum. You have the opportunity to decide if now is the right time for the community to invest additional tax money in the students of our communities.
I had the privilege of serving our communities as a school board member from 1992 – 2010, and again during the second half of 2016 when I temporarily filled an open seat until it could be filled in the November election. I urge you to consider the needs of our youth as a whole, and not individual, self-centered, single issue, perspectives.
The $100M+ bond referendum from about 10 years ago to build the current 2,000-student high school and expand other facilities was quite modest. The board at that time consciously decided to minimally invest in athletic facilities. Yes, the high school included an activities center, but did not include a hockey arena or multi-purpose turf field / football stadium, but we did provision for future expansion for the latter in the land purchased for the high school site. The activities center is fully utilized.
Some may have criticized the decision to include a large, state of the art, performing arts center. Look what this has done for our music and arts programs – they are thriving and award winning. We purposely decided to continue to use existing athletic facilities until the youth population these facilities would serve and the community size, warranted additional facilities.
With new home construction occurring again in our communities and youth sport participation filling our facilities, the school board confirmed now is the time to propose to the voters to consider expansion of these facilities.
This bond referendum contains other, very important elements, including additional classrooms, updated technology, safety, and energy efficiency improvements. A community based committee commissioned by the school board, and the board itself, spent significant time gathering input to get this right, coming to the conclusion to put this proposal in front of the voters. The proposal is balanced to address a wide-ranging set of needs. Under the proposal, for example, the high school will be expanded to its maximum capacity to meet the growing enrollment, including the largest ever class of 550+ students in the incoming 9th grade class. Supporters of this proposal should be championing the full extent of the proposal with clarity so our voting citizens know what they are voting for.
This school board, and past school boards, are not a bunch of career politicians; none that I know of in the 25 years I’ve been involved in the STMA school board have used this as a launching pad to further their political ambitions to pursue higher office. The six-member school board are parents and grandparents, doing their best to represent the community and provide direction to the school administration to do what is best for kids. This board, and the superintendent it has hired, are not trying to hide information or mislead – to the contrary, I’ve never seen more public communication about a referendum with more facts shared and more transparency than ever.
The board provided direction to its fiscal consultant, Ehlers, to put a bond package together that minimizes the overall increase in tax impact on the citizens. As a result, the amount of taxes used to pay off this bond are lower at the beginning ($45 / year for a $200K home), but increases as other school district debt is paid off, trying to keep the overall taxes associated with school bonds flat over time. I sincerely believe the school district is not trying to hid this fact as it is completely in line with the direction we gave the financial consultants.
Lastly, much has been written in on-online forums about whether this should be voted on during a general election or a special election, like we are doing. One perspective says that the informed will go to vote during a special election, both supporters and dissenters, and many voting in a general election who don’t have children attending schools may not be completely informed and therefore may not make a vote based on facts. These positions of course are just that – opinions. The facts are that the school district and school board needed to do a large amount of work, including preparing materials for review by the Minnesota Department of Education and the timeline simply didn’t support being ready for a vote in November. The board also felt the need was too great to wait another year. There is no conspiracy here. The school board members are tax payers too. They have put this referendum forward and ask that you make an informed vote.
Go to the school website. Study the facts. Learn where and how you can vote on February 7, in person at the district office prior to Feb 7, or by mail.
St. Michael-Albertville School District Board Member